House Committee Votes to Lower School Bond Threshold

Feb 2, 2018

The Central Valley school bond issue is one of two on the February 13 Spokane County ballot. It would not be affected by the lower threshold bill.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A Washington state Senate committee voted Friday to lower the threshold for approving school bond issues.

The state constitution says districts must receive 60% approval from voters to get permission to sell bonds to fund capital projects. The new bill would put the threshold at 55%.

Supporters testifying at a recent public hearing for the bill say 22 school bond issues in eastern Washington have failed since 2011, despite having received more than 55-percent of the vote. They say that forces districts to continue spending money to rerun bond issues in future elections, when they already have majority support.

Opponents say there should be a higher threshold because bond issues obligate the public to pay off huge amounts of debt.

Idaho’s threshold for passing bonds is a two-thirds majority. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to lower that over the last couple of decades.

Sen. Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle) says she wishes the bill would lower the threshold even farther.

“Although the 55% will allow a few more school districts to be able to fund critical investments in their community, there’s even more that will still that we’re still leaving behind by not going to a simple majority,” Saldana said.

The bill was amended to require stronger accountability measures for school districts, then approve and moved along for consideration by the full House.

If the bill passes and is signed into law, a constitutional amendment would be placed before voters. That would need two-thirds approval.