The Renton School District bond that would fund a new elementary school and other construction has failed, and an essential funding levy passed. The February special election results were certified Friday, Feb. 22.
Final results show both measures received almost 63 percent approval. The bond turnout was below 18,578 needed, with about 17,100 votes counted.
The levy passed with nearly 10,700 of the 17,109 counted voting in favor. Spokesperson for the district Randy Matheson said the levy will add security to schools and provide additional nurses and counselors. It also makes up $85 million of the annual budget.
Renton School District already bought land for the proposed elementary school that would have been built with the bond. So far, they’ve spent around $3.36 million, according to King County records on the parcels.
Now that the bond has officially failed, what happens to that purchased land?
Matheson said the school district will continue to acquire more land in that area for the elementary school. The money used for the land purchases comes from a previous 2016 levy that included funds for future land acquisition.
An elementary school property will need space to house at least 550 students, along with parking and playfields.
Other than that, it will depend on if voters pass a future measure that funds the new elementary school for more work to continue, Matheson said.
School Board President Pam Teal said she was disappointed they can’t move forward with the needed elementary school. She said with more than 100 portables at district elementary schools, she would have liked them to move forward with the project.
Teal added she’s reached out to state legislators to share the district’s experience with this year’s bond measure and trying to meet the super majority requirements.
“It’s been my focus to tell them our story, and that maybe it could help them change this for the future,” Teal said.
About another 884 ballots were received too late, some possibly due to snow conditions, and 90 additional ballots had signature issues.
If the late ballots were counted toward total voters, it still doesn’t meet the validation mark.
Communications Officer Kafia Hosh with King County Elections said it is up to the school district to determine whether late ballots are counted in the official voter turnout.
Only about three more votes from each of the 136 precincts with registered voters might have met validation, if those late votes were considered.
Tax revenue from the bond would not have been collected until late 2019 or 2020, so Matheson said there’s no critical construction projects that will need to be addressed with other funds for this year.
“We still have time to figure out what to do next,” Matheson said.
Still, $40 million of the bond is still available from the 2016 levy projects that were previously approved in the March 2016 election. Those dollars were going to be transferred over to the new bond if it was passed, Renton Reporter previously reported.
The snow did cause delay in post office workers accessing some ballots, but they have all since arrived to King County Elections office. About nine precincts had less than 10 percent voter turnout.
The school district will be charged for putting measures on the ballot, which Matheson said they will receive later in the year. It is usually between $80,000 to $100,000, and costs are associated with election office work.
The campaigning for the election measure was supported financially by a citizens committee.
Overall, Renton School District had a lower voter turnout than the overall county, 24.82 percent of voters. The county saw 30.73 percent voter turnout.
In the 2016 February election, the district had a similar 24.59 percent voter turnout.
“We had a large turnout of voters, even in the snowstorm,” Matheson said. “We want to honor that vote of confidence, so we’ll place something before voters, some time soon.”
Both Matheson and Teal said they don’t believe the high dollar amount on the bond had an impact on voter turnout. The school board was presented with four options for bond amount in the fall and chose the highest, the almost $250 million.
Teal said they know the support is there and for now, she is working to make sure the people who can change these laws knew what happened with the bond.
The district is in conversations and the school board will ultimately make a decision on whether to rerun the bond or possibly run a levy in the next special election.
In previous elections, the district has rerun failed bond measures. In the last 20 years, the district has failed other bond measures five times. Those measures were rerun and passed.