Sunday, September 20, 2020
Sept. 20, 2020

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Ridgefield voters say no to $40.5 million school bond

Measure that would have paid for new school trailing 52%

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:

A $40.5 million Ridgefield School District bond was failing Tuesday night.

Voters were rejecting the bond by 52.52 percent after polls closed. The bond, which would cover the cost of building a new elementary school, would need to pass with a margin of 60 percent plus one vote.

District officials say the bond would temporarily relieve overcrowding at intermediate schools, allowing the district to plan a future bond project for additional campuses. An additional 1,760 students will enter the district by the 2023-2024 school year, according to district estimates.

“It doesn’t change the critical needs of the district, so we’ll just have to regroup,” school board President Joe Vance said.

The bond would cost taxpayers 32 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, or $96 per year for a homeowner whose property is valued at $300,000.

The 3,500-student district ran a much larger version of the bond, totaling $107 million, in February that lost with 59.15 percent support — about 65 votes fewer than needed to pass.

But also since then there’s been the COVID-19 outbreak and economic shutdown.

“I think it played a large role,” Vance said. “There’s about a 10 percent difference in the vote, and I think that’s probably reflective of the current environment.”

Vance said that while he understands the economic concerns, construction costs would likely be higher for any future bonds to solve the district’s overcrowding issue. The district has said it would be eligible for another $12.3 million in state assistance if the measure is approved.

“It’s likely that those funds will not be available, meaning that those funds will go to other districts,” Vance said.

The current bond’s revenue would fund a new elementary school in the Claiborne Acres section of the city, south of Northeast 279th Street and east of North 65th Avenue. The school would serve students in kindergarten through sixth grade, whereas the school’s typical elementary school progression is kindergarten through fourth grade.

The district has also said it would use the bond money to pay for playground equipment at existing elementary schools.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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