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News / Politics / Election

Ridgefield bond gains votes; Evergreen levy still passing

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 27, 2022, 5:21pm

Wednesday’s round of ballots in the April 26 special election are showing huge gains among “yes” voters for two critical schools funding measures in Clark County.

Support for the Ridgefield School District’s proposed general obligation bond has taken a turn for the better, now with 59.14 percent voting to approve — just a few dozen votes shy of meeting the 60 percent threshold necessary for the measure to pass.

Evergreen Public Schools’ replacement operations and maintenance levy also gained ground, now with 54.07 percent voting to approve — an improvement of more than 3 percentage points over Tuesday night’s results.

Initial results reported on Tuesday showed just 56.52 percent of voters had voted to approve the Ridgefield bond, a slight decrease from the 57.5 percent that had unsuccessfully voted to approve the measure in the Feb. 8 special election earlier this year.

District spokesperson Joe Vajgrt spoke with a different tone of voice on Wednesday, shocked by the updated trend.

“I’m surprised we made up as much ground as we did,” Vajgrt said. “One of the reasons we weren’t feeling optimistic is that in the past measures have only changed a half-percent or so, I don’t know if were expecting to see such a jump.”

The $62.6 million bond measure would fund the construction of a new elementary school and expansion at Ridgefield High School. Ridgefield’s population has grown intensely over the last decade and is anticipated to continue.

In recent weeks, Superintendent Nathan McCann and other district officials had been discussing plans for what to do if the bond failed yet again, such as redrawing school attendance boundaries and converting extracurricular spaces into additional classrooms. Though still short of passage, district officials will now wait for coming results with anticipation.

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“You can’t help but feel encouraged that it’s gone up by so much,” Vajgrt said. “We’ll be keeping an eye on it closely in the next few days.”

In Evergreen, sighs of relief

Evergreen Public Schools’ three-year levy will replace the district’s current levy when it expires in December; collections would begin in 2023. A simple majority is required to pass.

Evergreen ran a levy on Feb. 8, which failed in rather dramatic fashion with just 42.85 voting to approve. In an effort to meet voters halfway, district officials tweaked the measure to lower its three-year tax rate.

If it continues to pass, the levy will cost Evergreen voters an estimated $1.70 per $1,000 of assessed value for all three years, the same tax rate that those living within district boundaries are currently paying.

Interim Superintendent John Boyd addressed Tuesday night’s tight results with caution, saving the whole of his optimism for when full results came in. Wednesday’s shift toward the measure’s near-certain passage, however, led Boyd to speak with a bit more confidence.

“The pit in my stomach is definitely gone. This is an incredible turnaround, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Boyd said. “Our staff did a good job at communicating what’s at stake. This community really does support the students. Once they realized what the levy really does pay for, I think they came around on it.”

The proposed replacement provides additional funding for critical health resources and staffing, including counselors and nurses. The levy also provides funding for elective classes and extracurricular activities like music, theater and athletics — were it to fail, Evergreen would become the only school district in Clark County without the ability to hold middle school sports.

Boyd added that while enrollment decreases might still lead the district to make difficult cuts in the coming months, the levy’s approval allows them to maintain key programs and supports for students that he feels matter most.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 37,943 ballots had been counted — an estimated 33.95 percent turnout among registered voters.

Clark County Elections is reporting that they estimate about 1,000 votes are left to be counted over the coming days. The next tally is expected to be released at 2 p.m. Thursday.