ARLINGTON – This month’s special election in Washington state has had more school districts failing enrichment and capital levies, as well as school bonds, than any year since simple majority was put in place in 2007, public financing experts say.
In that respect, Arlington Public Schools’ results were rare.
“In this very difficult post-McCleary election, passing not only a replacement (enrichment) levy, but a capital levy, is a major accomplishment,” wrote Cory Plager, senior vice president at D.A. Davidson and Co., a Seattle brokerage firm, that works with the district.
Leading up to Friday’s certification of election results, Arlington’s four-year Educational Programs and Operations levy and four-year $25 million capital levy to pay for safety improvements were approved by voters at levels of 56% and 52.8%, respectively. Both required a simple majority to pass.
In results for the $71.5 million bond to replace Post Middle School, among 8,417 votes Thursday, the bond garnered 4,434 “yes” votes for 52.7% against 3,983 “no” votes, or 47.3% short of the 60% supermajority needed for passage.
While school leaders are ramping up for across-school projects funded in the capital levy and considering next steps with failure of the Post Middle School bond, The Arlington Times analyzed precinct data to gauge how neighborhoods voted.
Among 21,769 registered voters, turnout was 39%.
A closer look at voting trends for around the district found the following:
* Among the 40 precincts, 12 generated “yes” votes at a 60% rate or higher, with one Gleneagle-area precinct off 67th Avenue NE reporting a 71% approval rate.
* The bond garnered its strongest support from precincts in Old Town, downtown and south to the Gleaneagle and adjoining neighborhoods.
* In 17 precincts mainly within city limits, voters supported the bond at 50% or higher.
* Arlington’s 4th precinct where Post Middle School is located, 62.2% – 2 out of 3 voters – voted yes on the bond, 226 yes, 137, no.
* Among 33 precincts where at least 100 residents voted on the bond, two-thirds of precincts did not vote “yes” at a rate of 60% or better.
* The larger group of no voters were located in rural areas and neighborhoods northwest, north and east of urban and suburban Arlington, other than voters in the Bryant, Burn Hill and Jim Creek areas.
At a study session Tuesday, school leaders met to talk about the election results and discuss potential next steps.
District officials plan to speak with their lobbyist, Strategies360, to review next steps for Post and other funding or construction options Arlington might be able to consider, said Brian Lewis, executive director of Operations.
Some desperate school districts are going straight back to voters in April’s special election. Arlington school board members plan to have further talks soon about Post, but don’t appear inclined to look at an April election, preferring instead the November presidential election if going back to voters.
The district’s Facilities Advisory Committee meets on March 12, when they will delve more into the details of sequencing for the capital levy-backed projects, as well as alternative strategies for Post. Options are limited, though, whether reducing the scope of the project, cutting parts of the project, or breaking construction into segments over several year. t over the years, because the new school as planned was already going to be close to student capacity.
Lewis said some projects, such as the new classroom wing at Arlington High School will take two years to get in place with planning, permitting and construction. He added that district will be able to use available cash to fund projects in 2020 until levied funds become available next year.
School leaders said they were grateful to voters for supporting the levies, and the high voter turnout.