Ridgefield School District’s $77 million bond is trailing after initial results came in for Tuesday night’s special election.
The district received a 57.3 percent vote in favor of the bond, receiving 3,262 votes out of 5,695 ballots cast, but it needs a 60 percent supermajority to pass.
Bonds also need 40 percent of the turnout from the most recent general election to be certified, but Ridgefield voters have already surpassed that total by close to 2,000 votes. The district needed 3,644 voters to validate the election, according to Superintendent Nathan McCann, and received 5,695 votes as of Tuesday night.
“I appreciate everybody in Ridgefield who voted, whether they’re for or against,” McCann said. “I think they’re all school supporters.”
Last year, Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, and Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said they would consider legislation allowing facilities bonds to pass by a simple majority.
McCann said he’s going to remain optimistic until the vote is finalized, but he knows making up nearly 3 percent is a “heavy lift.”
The vote comes nearly two years after residents approved a $78 million bond for the district, which was used to fund a new 5-8 campus, repurpose the old View Ridge Middle School into the new Ridgefield Administrative and Civic Center, expand Ridgefield High School and make security upgrades to Union Ridge Elementary School and South Ridge Elementary schools.
This year’s bond would be used to build a new K-4 elementary school, which is expected to cost around $51.8 million. In October, the school board approved a purchase of 27 acres in the Claiborne Acres section of the city, south of Northeast 279th Street and east of North 65th Avenue. Other bond money will go toward more high school expansion, covered play areas at all elementary schools, heating and cooling upgrades at South Ridge and Union Ridge and safety and security updates.
The district estimated the tax rate for the 2019 bond would be $1.06 per $1,000 assessed property value in 2020 and $1.09 per $1,000 in 2021 and 2022. Ridgefield officials also estimated the school district’s tax rate including the bond would be $4.43 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The 2018 rate was $4.34 per $1,000 of assessed value, which was expected to drop in 2019.
The 2018 rate increased partially due to the Legislature’s McCleary fix, which saw the state pump $7.3 billion into education and another $1 billion in for teacher salaries in 2018.
The McCleary decision also caps how much districts can ask for in local levies. Ridgefield’s levy was $2.24 per $1,000 of assessed value, but will be capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
McCann said he thought a combination of the 2017 bond, the higher 2018 tax bill and all the recent discussion around school funding and teacher contracts played parts in the district not reaching 60 percent.
Ridgefield is already dealing with overcrowding, with enrollment at 3,166 students as of earlier this year and most schools in the district either at or over capacity. McCann said projections have the district getting another 1,422 students by 2022, which would be a 45 percent increase in enrollment.
“Ridgefield is growing at such a rapid rate,” McCann said. “It leaves people a little unsettled.”
He also said the school board will have to regroup and figure out if they want to try again at a later date to run a bond election.
“That’s a decision for the school board,” McCann said. “The need is there. The need didn’t disappear because we lost an election.”