Vancouver bond vote teeters short of validation

Most other school measures passing; Hockinson fails sports field levy

By Craig Brown, Columbian Managing Editor and Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Local school districts mostly did well in the first round of election results released this evening. Eight of nine money measures on the ballot appeared to be passing, with the exception being Hockinson’s athletic fields measure.

However, Vancouver Public Schools’ $458 million bond issue could be in peril due to low voter turnout. Bond issues require a 60 percent supermajority approval and a minimum number of votes to be cast; in Vancouver’s case, that’s about 27,000 in this election. Tuesday night’s returns totaled only 24,293. But more than 68 percent of those were yes votes.

If the bond passes, Vancouver plans a major construction campaign, building three new schools, replacing eight others, doing major remodeling at four schools, and doing at least some work on virtually every facility in the district.

The mood was upbeat at the Bates Center for Educational Leadership, where a small group of bond supporters and school board members gathered. “I’m so grateful to our citizens’ committee,” said Superintendent Steven Webb. “They told a compelling narrative.” Webb praised the community and its voters, who have a 50-year history of supporting school bonds and levies.

Tom Hagley, the district’s chief communications officer, said it is typical for Vancouver to have several thousand more ballots tallied after election night. “I think there is a lot of reason to be optimistic this will go over the top,” he said.

Ridgefield bond

Better news was to be had in Ridgefield, where more than the minimum 3,744 ballots were cast in a $78 million bond issue to build a new intermediate and middle school complex and remodel and expand several other campuses, including Ridgefield High School. Voters there were also voting 68 percent yes.

School levies

Voters appeared to be favoring maintenance and operations measures in Camas, Washougal and Woodland. Camas and Washougal voters were also looking favorably upon technology levies. All of these levy requests would replace expiring levies.

Battle Ground’s replacement M&O levy was close, at 51.28 percent yes. It will need a simple majority to pass.

Hockinson voters were turning down a $1.5 million, six-year levy that would replace the muddy natural turf at the high school main athletic field with synthetic turf. It had only 40.21 percent approval in first returns.

Unlike the bond issues, school levies require only a simple majority and no minimum of votes to validate.

Tonight’s first results include only ballots received and processed by elections workers prior to today; the next batch of returns is expected Wednesday afternoon. The election will be certified Feb. 24.

More information about each of these measures will be posted later tonight at www.columbian.com and appear in Wednesday’s print edition of The Columbian.