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Camas levies passing in election returns; Battle Ground levy failing

Updated results show Camas voters approving 2 replacement levies

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 9, 2021, 8:46pm

Returns from Tuesday’s special election show both of the Camas School District’s levies are passing, while Battle Ground Public Schools’ levy is falling short of the simple majority needed for approval.

Voter turnout was 38.74 percent of the 80,017 total eligible voters across both districts. Each district asked voters to approve replacement levies to fund school programs and technology not receiving state or federal support.

Some 200 ballots were left to count as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Clark County Elections Office. The election will be certified Feb. 19 after final ballots are tallied on Feb. 16.

Results updated Wednesday afternoon show that 52.87 percent of Camas voters approved the district’s replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy, and 55.65 percent approved the Technology and Health and Safety Capital Levy. The levies would collect a combined $64.5 million over three years to maintain funding for staffing, technology, special education, transportation and a host of other programs, as well as provide funding for building and facility updates for the district.

Camas’ previous replacement levy in 2017 passed by more than 68 percent. Superintendent Jeff Snell told The Columbian on Tuesday that this time around felt like much more than a typical levy, given the COVID-19 era and criticism the district faced surrounding reopening plans and timelines.

“It honestly feels like a little bit of relief to just concentrate on the reopening part now,” Snell said, “and not try to worry so much about the other aspects of the district that rely on the community support.”

In Battle Ground, it’s a different story. Voters were asked to approve a replacement Educational Operations and Programs Levy to continue funding for staffing, technology, special education and a host of other programs not funded with state and federal support. It was the district’s only levy, but it won support from only  47.53 percent of voters who cast ballots. A simple majority is required for approval.

The levy would have collected $116.5 million over four years for the county’s third-largest district.

Battle Ground already has the lowest tax rate in Clark County, and its levy represents 14 percent of the general budget, chief financial officer Meagan Hayden said in a recent interview with The Columbian. Given the financial strain on families during the pandemic, the Battle Ground School Board voted 5-0 in November to dip into the district’s reserve fund in order to lower the projected tax rate in 2022 from the current rate to provide relief to taxpayers.

Battle Ground Superintendent Mark Ross thanked community members who voted for the levy and the Citizens for Better Schools volunteers who supported the district.

“The district needs the community’s support to provide programs and opportunities that help our students succeed,” Ross said Tuesday night. “The board will discuss the results and decide what the next steps will be for the district.