Early special election results on Tuesday night showed voters flirting with passing two multimillion-dollar bond measures for new facilities in the Washougal and Hockinson school districts.
The votes appeared too close to call when the first numbers were released shortly after 8 p.m. With at least 1,000 ballots left to count, Hockinson’s measure hovered slightly above the critical threshold of 60 percent approval, and Washougal’s sat just below that mark.
In Washougal, the district pitched voters a package of roughly $57.7 million in general obligation bonds to build a new elementary school and replace Jemtegaard Middle School and Excelsior, a small alternative high school. The measure, Proposition 5, appeared to be failing with 59.69 percent approval.
The bonds would mature within 21 years, and the district would levy excess property taxes to repay them. The rate would start out at 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for the first year — equating to about $120 in taxes for an owner of a $250,000 home.
Meanwhile, a similar proposal from the Hockinson School District — Proposition 1 — was passing, with support from 60.95 percent of the voters. The district hopes to use $39.9 million in general obligation bonds to rebuild an aging Hockinson Middle School and construct a number of new athletic fields and rooms for wrestling and music students.
The district says the bonds would mature in 20 years, and property taxes would increase by 3 cents to a rate of $2.74 per $1,000 of assessed value. The rate amounts to $685 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home.
The two districts also plan to use a portion of the money to beef up security measures. The enhancement strategies include adding surveillance cameras at Washougal High School, making campuses in both districts less open for intruders, and funding a long-term security and traffic study at Hockinson Heights Elementary.
Between the two districts, 16,485 Clark County voters were eligible to participate in the election. An additional 1,418 voters from Skamania County also fall within the Washougal School District’s boundaries. In all, 5,987 ballots were counted by Tuesday night.
With a batch of mail-in ballots left to count, Washougal School District spokeswoman Rene Carroll held out hope for a comeback.
“There’s still more fight in this dog,” said Carroll, who also chairs the measure’s campaign team. “We’re confident that the last-minute voters are our supporters and we’ll inch above that 60 percent and be successful.”
The Washougal School District failed to pass a similar $55 million bond measure in 2008. A meager 38 percent of the voters stood behind that proposal.
But the district came out ready to fight this time, waging a more aggressive education campaign leading up to the special election. Of course, it also helps that the economy has recovered to some degree in the last seven years, Carroll said.
“It was a dismal time economically, and the voters just couldn’t take anymore,” she said. “But it’s a different time now, and there’s optimism.”
If the measure fails, the district will have little choice but to keep pushing for new facilities in the near future, Carroll said. Hockinson School District officials could not be reached for comment.