Everett schools bond flunking in polls
EVERETT - The Everett School District’s $259 million bond measure narrowly missed the vote threshold needed for it to pass as of last week, but district officials were optimistic but equally stumped why it fared poorly.
As of press time, 58.16 percent of voters said yes to the bond, but that is not enough. A bond needs a 60 percent majority to be approved. Levies need a simple 50 percent majority for approval.
The district’s standard maintenance levy passed with 60.78 percent of the vote as of press time.
More than 18,200 votes had been cast as of the Friday, Feb. 14 tallies. Everett School District measures on the February ballot traditionally garner approximately 20,000 votes.
The district could put the bond measure out again to voters as soon as the April ballot. The Everett School Board may decide what will happen next, district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.
“Whatever the results are, the needs are still there,” Waggoner said.
The district intended to allocate the bond money to build a new high school, completely renovate North Middle and Woodside Elementary schools, beef up school security and pay for $20 million worth of new computers, tablets and other learning technology tools.
Often districts respond to bond failures by modifying the bond package and putting it on the next ballot. Everett once resurrected a bond package that failed in February 1996 and a second vote that spring garnered a narrow 60.73 percent passing rate. The district’s 2002 and 2006 bond measures passed with more than 63 percent of the vote both times.
The board has a March 7 deadline to file a new measure this spring.
Leading up to the vote, district officials emphasized the bond and levy package would not increase property tax rates. A heavy telemarketing effort reportedly took place days before the vote.
This year’s bond has the support of key figures such as Mayor Ray Stephanson, but the district faced mounting disapproval from some parents who eagerly supported the 2006 bond effort.
The district’s newly built $20 million administration building on Broadway is a divisive point for some district residents who quickly point to schools in disrepair as higher priority uses of district money.
Some of the most ardent critics are from the grassroots watchdog group Everett School Board Project, of which key members put out its own ballot information website.
Waggoner couldn’t pinpoint last week why the measure didn’t pass, but emphasized that more than half of voters said yes to the bond.
District Superintendent Gary Cohn was unavailable for comment last week.
The district did extensive public outreach running up to the bond measure, including public forums including at North Middle, at which people say the school’s in disrepair, and meetings asking parents what size high school they want.
Part of the high school meetings included asking parents how to communicate why voters should approve the bond. One focus group noted the high school project’s overall price tag could sway voters. A new high school is the biggest project on the list, weighing in around $89 million as proposed.
Before the full $259 million project list was complete, the district was weighing bond figures of between $200 to $250 million last spring.
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