School bond issue fails

ARLINGTON – Arlington Public Schools’ $107.5 million bond to build and renovate school facilities and improve security failed to gain a supermajority for passage.

In the latest results from the Feb. 13 special election, 3,269 Arlington voters – or 55.06 percent – approved the bond while 2,668 residents – 44.94 percent cast “no” votes, which was not enough to meet the 60 percent needed for passage.

The proposition made minimal gains in the counts from Tuesday’s election to Thursday’s tally before our deadline.District officials were unhappy.

“We’re obviously disappointed, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue to pursue more options,” said Brian Lewis, executive director of operations. The district’s building needs and problems that must be addressed are not going away.

The bond would have funded replacement of Post Middle School, and a new wing and technology and arts workshop to Arlington High School, along with field improvements, security and environmental control improvements at all schools, classroom audio upgrades at all elementary schools and other enhancements.

Lewis said the district will reconvene the facilities advisory committee next week to review election results, look at next steps, and consider where more community conversations and education might help better convey the needs to residents.

“One of the biggest issues was concern over ramifications of the state property tax increase and how that articulated with the bond proposal,” Lewis said.

Lewis didn’t want to speculate on what led less than half of voters in Arlington to oppose the bond measure, but the news of higher property tax bills arriving in homes this month while sorting out for taxpayers what state school taxes will cover verses what local districts will fund may have created uncertainty.

Residents will be getting bills for their property taxes this month, which will be going up an average 13 percent in Arlington, and as high as 28 percent for some other communities, according to the Snohomish County Assessor’s Office.

District officials aren’t ready yet to announce whether they will go back to voters in the next special election April 24. Many other districts bond and levy ballot measures were failing, too.

The district hasn’t floated a school bond in Arlington for 18 years, Lewis said. “On the one hand that’s good because it shows we exercise tremendous fiscal restraint before bringing a proposal to voters,” he said.

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