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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ballots due Tuesday night for Spokane County special election

A stream of cars lines up at the North Spokane Library on Hawthorne Road to drop off ballots on Nov. 8, 2022.  (Christopher Anderson/For The Spokesman-Review)

Ballots are due at 8 p.m. Tuesday for Spokane County-area voters being asked primarily to approve or reject tax increases to support schools, libraries and a fire district.

The Spokane County Elections Office maintains a list of ballot drop-box locations throughout the county. Ballots can also be submitted directly to the office at 1033 West Gardner Avenue or mailed, though they must be postmarked no later than 8 p.m. Tuesday.

School districts and other taxing authorities in the Spokane County area this February are collectively asking for voters to approve nearly $1.3 billion in taxes to pay for new buildings, maintain current programming and fund other programs.

Voters will see only the ballot measures that pertain to the area in which they live; city of Spokane residents will not be asked to weigh in on the Medical Lake School District’s levy, for example.

The vast majority of items on the February ballot are school district bonds and levies, though the Spokane Public Library system and Spokane County Fire District 5 are also asking for the reauthorization of property tax levies.

Spokane voters also are being asked whether to limit the power of the City Council in drawing council districts in the future.

Levies can be approved by a simple majority, and in most cases would allow school districts and other taxing authorities to collect a certain amount from property taxes each year for the duration of the levy, mostly for two to four years. Bond measures, which require approval from 60% of voters to pass, would allow school districts to borrow the full amount immediately and pay off the debt plus interest over the life of the bond, which in local elections this year range from 20 to 25 years.

A common adage is that levies are for learning and bonds are for buildings, but there can be nuances. In some cases, school districts are asking for two types of levy renewals. Educational programs and operations levies pay for things such as smaller class sizes, school counselors, extracurriculars like sports or bands, and strengthening special education programs. Capital levies do pay for buildings, although in a much smaller way than bonds, typically covering major repairs and minor upgrades.

Bonds, such as the $200 million in initial debt that Spokane Public Schools is asking voters to let the district take on, are issued for major construction projects, including remodels or new buildings.