With thousands of ballots still left to count, the Longview School District’s $121.6 million school bond appeared headed for failure despite winning a simple majority Tuesday night.
Tuesday night’s count had the measure, the costliest bond in school district history, earning a 55 percent yes vote. That’s 5 percentage points less than the 60 percent supermajority it needs to win.
Countywide, about 5,000 ballots are still left to count. It was not known how many of them are from the Longview School District. Mathematically, the bond could still pass. Statistically, however, it is improbable the measure will gain enough votes in further counting to put it over the top. The raw count Tuesday night was 3,553 yes votes to 2,902 no votes.
“We’ll regroup and see where we’re at and then make determinations as to if and when we’ll come back and how we’ll do that,” Longview School District Superintendent Dan Zorn said Tuesday morning when asked about the possibility of the bond failing. “We’ll spend some time with our community talking about why and try to get a good feel for that.”
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It’s unclear whether the district will come back to voters with a revised proposal next year — when property taxes are set to increase — or wait for property taxes to fall again in 2019 as a result of the state’s McCleary legislation.
The bond would have cost the owner of a home valued at $200,000 an extra $16 monthly, or roughly $200 annually, although property taxes would have been relatively the same in 2019 compared to what homeowners paid this year, according to the district’s estimates.
The district’s facilities advisory committee worked for more than three years to produce the package of recommended upgrades. The plan would have addressed less than half of roughly $300 million in needs that the committee identified during the planning process, Zorn noted.
The proposal called for rebuilding Mint Valley, Northlake and Olympic elementary schools. Olympic Elementary was built in 1950 and has not undergone significant renovations since then. Northlake Elementary dates back to 1953 and was most recently renovated 20 years ago. Mint Valley Elementary — constructed in 1969 with an open California-style layout — presents serious safety and security concerns, according to district officials.
The three elementary schools account for 15 of the district’s portables, which teachers and administrators had hoped to eliminate with the bond.
“The needs aren’t going away,” Zorn added Tuesday.
The district’s plan also would have renovated the Broadway Learning Center, which houses the district’s Head Start program. The program promotes school readiness in low-income children aged 5 or younger. Money also would have gone toward making districtwide safety and security upgrades.
Tuesday was not the first time Longview has rejected a school bond.
Only 49 percent of district residents supported a $29.4 million school bond in 1999. Two years later, a supermajority of voters approved a revised $39.7 million proposal that passed by less than a percentage point. That was more than 15 years ago — which was also the last time Longview passed a school bond.