ARLINGTON – An Arlington Public Schools construction bond measure that failed in the general election last month could return for a third try with voters in February, scaled down and with a smaller price tag.
The bond issue failed in the November election with 52 percent of 14,654 votes cast – well below the 60 percent supermajority required by state law. Voter turnout was a whopping 69 percent.
“It didn’t reach the supermajority, but we still had the majority of voters and made ground in gaining more ‘yes’ voters,” said Brian Lewis, executive director of Operations.
It was a tough road for school bonds across the state, with most showing results similar to Arlington. With all ballots counted, five bonds passed out of 13, with Ellensburg, Grays Harbor, Toledo, Spokane and Walla Walla districts passing their bonds by 62 percent to 73 percent margins.
Among five capital project levies on the ballot, four of them passed with over 50 percent “yes” votes.
School Board members Monday were presented with recommendations from the Facilities Advisory Committee, bond amounts and potential election dates.
The option that gained the most traction was a trimmed down $96 million measure, $11.5 million less than the previous bond, which would still qualify the district for $11.4 million in state matching funds, leaving $4.6 million in projects that would go unfunded.
The measure would still move ahead with replacement of Post Middle School, a new wing and technology and arts workshop at Arlington High School, security cameras, door locks and environmental control improvements, flooring at Eagle Creek and Kent Prairie elementaries, boiler replacement and other improvements. Lewis said the main projects that would not be included are the security vestibules at every building, audio improvements in the classrooms, field drainage and improvements at the bus station.
State matching funds would not be used for a fifth elementary school, either, Lewis said.
Taxpayers now paying $1.37 per $1,000 assessed property value toward Arlington school bonds would increase to $1.42 starting in 2020 and stay at that level to 2040. For a $350,000 home, the amount translates to $497 a year, $17 more than the current year.
A second option the Facilities Advisory Committee brought forward was a $75.5 million bond issue to proceed with Post Middle School replacement only.
Lewis said the district would look for other ways and funding sources to complete other projects over time.
If the district wants to put the bond on the Feb. 12 ballot, Dec. 10 is the last meeting date to adopt a resolution. Other options further out include a special election on April 23 and general election next November, Lewis said. Feb. 11 2020 would be the first opportunity to renew the district’s Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) Levy.