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Monday, December 11, 2023
Dec. 11, 2023

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Ridgefield bond failing in first returns

Number of ballots remaining to be counted unknown

By , Columbian Education Reporter

It could be strike two for the Ridgefield School District, as the north Clark County school district’s second run at a facilities bond was failing by a narrow margin Tuesday night.

The $107 million bond, which would build new schools and improve existing structures, was failing in first returns by a rate of 58.41 percent. That’s just shy of the required 60 percent supermajority needed to approve school bonds. Of the 6,513 votes cast, 3,804 voted in favor of the measure.

Voters in the school district rejected a $77 million school bond a year ago by a similarly slim margin; that February, 58.12 percent voted in favor of the levy.

Superintendent Nathan McCann wasn’t immediately available for comment following the news of the election results, but last month he described a series of “draconian measures” the district could face if the bond fails. Those options include building dozens of new portables, converting existing extracurricular spaces like theaters into classrooms, or running school on a split shift, with half of students attending early in the morning and the other half attending during the evening.

The Ridgefield School District is poised for significant growth over the coming years, with demographers projecting an additional 1,760 students entering the district by 2023-2024. That’s more than 50 percent growth in the suburban school district, whose enrollment was 3,358 students in January, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. That doesn’t take into account development around the Northeast 179th Street and Interstate 5 interchange, which could produce as many as 5,650 homes, many of them in the Ridgefield School District boundaries.

“The bottom line is, we’re in this perpetual mode of growth,” McCann said in January.

While late votes tend to trend in favor of school funding measures, there’s no way to know how many outstanding ballots remain to be counted from Ridgefield. Additional returns are expected in the coming days.

If the bond is ultimately approved, the Ridgefield School District will also qualify for $17.3 million in state matching funds, plus $5.7 million in revenue from developer impact fees, bringing the total construction budget to $130 million.

That’s expected to cover the cost of an elementary school for kindergartners through fourth-graders in the Claiborne Acres section of the city, as well as expansions to Ridgefield High School and playground improvements.

The district also added an intermediate school for fifth- and sixth-graders to its slate of proposed projects, the first part of a two-phase construction project that would eventually include a middle school for seventh- and eighth-grade students. The second part of that project could be funded through a later bond.

If approved, the bond will cost taxpayers a rate of 97 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value. Homeowners of a property valued at $300,000, for example, would pay $291 annually.

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