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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Vancouver schools levy passing in early returns; Washougal, Woodland measures failing

Estimated 17,000 ballots left to count in Clark County

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 14, 2023, 9:11pm

Clark County schools saw a mixed bag of results across four funding measures in three districts in early results Tuesday night.

Vancouver Public Schools, the second-biggest district in Southwest Washington, is passing its replacement levy, while three levies between the Washougal School District and Woodland Public Schools are failing.

Just 40,871 ballots have been counted as of Tuesday night among 182,096 registered voters — amounting to a 22.44 percent turnout. Clark County Elections estimates there are 17,000 ballots left to count.

Vancouver Public Schools

Voters in Vancouver are poised to approve Vancouver Public Schools’ replacement education and operations levy, with 55.37 percent of voters supporting the measure as of Tuesday night. The measure requires a simple majority to pass.

The four-year levy will replace existing levies when they expire at the end of this year, funding several programs and staff supports in the district that are not funded by the state — such as athletics and performing arts, Family-Community Resource Centers and additional staffing in security, nursing and counseling.

The four-year-levy is expected to collect a total of $271.9 million starting in 2024 at an estimated rate of $1.99 per $1,000 assessed property value. District officials said the difference between estimated collections in this proposed levy and the current levies reflect changing district needs and increasing property values within the school district’s boundaries.

This does not include ongoing collections for the district’s technology levy and repayment of the capital facilities bond passed in 2017.

Though Vancouver Public Schools hasn’t lost a replacement levy election in recent memory, Superintendent Jeff Snell said he felt relieved Tuesday night.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, and mainly I’m grateful for everybody that voted,” Snell said. “It used to be I went down to the courthouse to check results, now I just I refresh my phone as fast as I can.”

In the weeks leading up to the election, dozens of signs asking voters to “vote no” on the measure started popping up alongside roads and major intersections; the first vocal opposition to a Vancouver Public Schools funding measure in recent memory. The signs — which were funded by People United for Clark County, a right-wing political action group that also asked voters to reject the affordable housing levy — criticized the district for high spending, low standardized test scores, a voyeurism scandal and more.

Ultimately, Snell said both the “no” campaign and slight dip in support compared with previous levies are symptoms of a more widespread issue.

“There’s been a trend, not just in Vancouver, of seeing frustration in general through the pandemic and after the pandemic as families struggle,” Snell said. “But my hope is that everyone feels connected to the schools and want to support them in every way. My goal is to have 100 percent of our community connected to our schools.”

For more information on the Vancouver Public Schools replacement education and operations levy, visit the district’s website at: https://vansd.org/levy/.

Washougal School District

Two funding propositions in the Washougal School District appear to be failing. Both measures require a simple majority to pass. The district is made up of voters in both Clark and Skamania counties.

Proposition 10, also a replacement educational programs and operations levy, is failing with 54.28 percent voting to reject.

If approved, like Vancouver’s, the three-year levy would continue to fund extracurricular programs like athletics and performing arts and additional staffing supports not funded by the state. It would replace the district’s current educational programs and operations levy after it expires at the end of this year.

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The levy was expected to collect a total of $31.5 million starting in 2024 at an estimated rate of $1.99 per $1,000 assessed property value.

Proposition 11, a replacement capital levy for educational technology, health and safety improvements, is failing with 53.66 percent voting to reject.

If approved, the measure would continue revamping district technology and infrastructure, such as a new roof for Washougal High School, new Americans With Disabilities Act access points for all main entrances and new air conditioning and heating systems for school buildings.

The levy was expected to collect a total of $9.05 million starting in 2024 and through 2026 at an estimated rate of 21 cents per $1,000 assessed property value in 2024, 84 cents per $1,000 assessed property value in 2025 and 85 cents per $1,000 assessed property value in 2026.

Woodland Public Schools

Woodland Public Schools’ replacement educational programs and operations levy also appears to be failing, with 56.77 percent voting to reject across both Clark and Cowlitz counties.

Also like Vancouver and Washougal, Woodland’s three-year replacement levy would continue to fund supplemental student programs and staffing supports when the district’s current levy expires at the end of this year if approved.

The three-year levy was expected to collect a total of $18,775,000 starting in 2024 at an estimated rate of $2.05 per $1,000 assessed property value.

Both Washougal and Woodland will be able to run their respective levies on another ballot later this year if current voting trends hold and they fail.

The next round of ballots are expected to be released at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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