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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Woodland schools measure still trailing by just dozens of votes

57 ballots waiting to be cured could be crucial, officials say

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 27, 2023, 6:13pm

The Woodland Public Schools community continued to hold its breath Thursday afternoon, as another round of ballots shows that a critical funding measure still trails, now by just 34 votes.

Resolution 23-01 — a replacement educational operations levy — is now narrowly failing with 49.56 percent voting to approve, 1,915 to 1,949. An additional 415 votes from Cowlitz County — where the vast majority of the district lies — were counted Thursday and another 140 to 150 are expected to be counted by 1:40 p.m. Friday. Another two ballots from Clark County are also left to be counted.

If results were to flip in the coming days and pass, the measure would generate $18.77 million over three years at an estimated rate of $1.91 per $1,000 assessed property value. It would replace the district’s existing operations levy when it expires at the end of this year.

If it fails, the district would be without an estimated $3 million in funding in 2024 and likely forced to make significant cuts to staff and student programs, including performing arts and athletics.

Ballot measures in Washington do not trigger automatic recounts, meaning that despite Woodland’s razor-thin margin, the district would be on the hook for paying for a recount itself.

Cowlitz County elections manager Hayley Johnson and Clark County elections manager Cathie Garber said Thursday that between the two counties, there are a total of 57 challenged ballots waiting to be cured due to signature issues or ballot damage.

Given such a narrow handful of votes separating “yes” and “no” at the moment, ballot curing could ultimately play a pivotal role. Voters have until May 4 to cure their ballot and can check through the county’s website to see if their ballot has been challenged.

“Every vote counts at this point,” Johnson said.

Washougal in the clear

Two other funding measures for the Washougal School District — Propositions 12 and 13 — passed in Tuesday’s special election, with Wednesday’s round of ballots sealing certain victories. Garber said Clark County received another 25 ballots from Washougal on Thursday, but they won’t sway the vote.

Like Woodland, the two Washougal measures serve as replacement operations levies that will replace the district’s current levy when it expires at the end of this year. Both measures make up an estimated 20 percent of Washougal’s annual budget and will continue to fund critical staff positions, extracurricular programs for students and a handful of renovations.

Proposition 12 passed with 57.22 percent voting to approve. The levy is expected to collect $31.5 million over three years starting in 2024 at an estimated rate of $1.99 per $1,000 assessed property value.

Proposition 13 passed with 56.18 percent voting to approve. The levy is expected to collect $9.05 million over three years at an estimated rate of 21 cents per $1,000 assessed property value in 2024, 84 cents per $1,000 in 2025 and 85 cents per $1,000 in 2026.

“This funding will make sure every student has a well-rounded education, including the arts, academic support, and opportunities to find themselves through athletics and clubs,” said Washougal Superintendent Mary Templeton.“This is excellent news for our students, for our community, and we are committed to creating a better and bright future for each of our students, and this investment ensures Washougal will continue to be an educational destination.”

Elections offices from Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties will continue to watch for any additional mail-in ballots that trickle in throughout the next few days, but Washougal won’t be impacted.