Ridgefield voters OK $47M schools bond

District overcomes two decades of failures with targeted plan, effort

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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The Ridgefield School District overcame two decades of bond failures and an ongoing recession to pass a $47 million bond issue Tuesday.

The measure received 2,775 “yes” votes, or 64.84 percent, to comfortably clear the required 60-percent “supermajority” threshold for it to pass, according to unofficial Clark County voting results. The measure was opposed by 1,505 voters, or 35.16 percent.

The Ridgefield district’s four schools will receive new classrooms, athletic facilities and traffic flow improvements to address overcrowding, infrastructure and safety problems, officials said.

Ridgefield residents are currently paying $2.11 per $1,000 of assessed home value for levies and bonds. With the new bond issue, they will pay $3.84 per $1,000, but the district will still have the lowest tax rate among Clark County school districts, officials said. The bond can run up to 20 years.

Tuesday’s passage reversed a negative trend in which Ridgefield voters rejected the last five bonds submitted for building and remodeling needs. Opponents of this particular bond issue had questioned the wisdom of running a bond during an economic downturn.

“This is a great victory for Ridgefield schools and the city of Ridgefield,” Superintendent Art Edgerly said, stepping away from the celebration inside Metro Wine Bar & Bistro in Ridgefield. He added, “We kept the project focused on the needs and priorities … and because of that we knew the city of Ridgefield would support this.”

Prior to Tuesday, Ridgefield voters had passed just two bonds since 1991, according to district officials.

Bond proponents entered Tuesday optimistic this bond would not suffer the same fate as the district’s last attempt -- an $85 million proposal in 2008 that received 54 percent approval. That proposal, which focused on building a new high school, was viewed as too extravagant by some residents.

The bond issue on Tuesday’s ballot involved less money, benefitted each school and resulted from better communication with residents, officials said.

The Ridgefield School Board approved a bond measure resolution Nov. 22, giving proponents two months to lobby for its approval.

School representatives knocked on doors this winter asking residents for support. District officials also held symposiums to educate parents and take their comments. A better-formulated proposal resulted from those efforts, Edgerly noted.

“The reason the case was so compelling was because schools have been neglected for so long,” said Randy Mueller, chairman of Citizens for Ridgefield Schools. “We should have done this before.”

The community “turned a corner” Tuesday with its support of the bond, Mueller added.

The school bond will add a total of 24 new classrooms at the district’s four schools -- South Ridge Elementary, Union Ridge Elementary, View Ridge Middle and Ridgefield High. New gyms, added cafeteria space and new or renovated play areas for students will also be paid for.

Bond money would also address gridlock concerns for buses and parents’ vehicles caused by a lack of space at Ridgefield’s elementary schools, officials said.