School Districts Work To Get Out Last Minute Vote On Levies and Bond Issues

Feb 12, 2018

The Mead School District is asking voters to approve two measures: a maintenance-and-operation levy and a facilities bond issue.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Ballots are due tomorrow (Tuesday) for the 12 school levies and two bond issues that are on the Spokane County ballot. The districts are making last-minute efforts to get voters to mark their ballots and return them in time to be counted.

School bond issues and levies are viewed differently when it comes to success or failure.

In Idaho, a two-thirds supermajority is needed to pass a bond issue. In Washington, the bar isn’t quite as high, 60%. But a specified minimum number of voters must fill in their ballots to validate the election. That’s usually determined by a certain percentage of voters in past elections.

That means, administrators such as Mead Superintendent Tom Rockefeller are not only working to win support, but also to motivate people to participate.

“I make sure and ask people to at least get in the process and get out and vote. At least the community speaks through that vote,” Rockefeller said.

The school levy threshold is a little lower. There are no validation requirements and 50%+one vote is enough to approve those measures.

One of the main selling points for levies is that, as Washington shifts school funding more from the local level to the state, local school taxes will decrease dramatically. Spokane Superintendent Shelley Redinger says there’s still a challenge with that message.

“It will go down but we still rely heavily on that for the programs and the quality of Spokane Public Schools,” she said.

Most, if not all, districts have areas on their webpages where you can read the details of their ballot measures. Some have run radio and TV ads. And a few have even given tours.

At Central Valley’s Horizon Middle School, principal Jesse Hardt is happy to show visitors why his 37-year-old school is deserving of the remodel his district is proposing.

“We are in dire need, really, to make something happen for our kids in this building. Those three months at the beginning of the year and the end of the year and some of those cold winter days in between are either unbearably hot or unbearably cold," Hardt said. "We need to make this happen sooner than later.”

Business interests have been active in evangelizing for the school measure.

“We need to look at trying to make sure that our K-through-12 system is robust and those students are successful and they move on and get a post-high school certificate or two-year or four-year degree," GSI CEO Todd Mielke said.

Here’s the list of districts in Spokane County that are running levies: Central Valley, Cheney, Deer Park, Freeman, Liberty, Mead, Medical Lake, Nine Mile Falls, Reardan-Edwall, Riverside, Spokane and West Valley. Mead and Central Valley have submitted bond issues.

Ballots have been sent out. To be counted, they must be returned to one of the ballot drop off boxes or the county elections office by 8 pm Tuesday. Or if mailed, they must be postmarked by Tuesday.