The Eastmont School District's $117 million Capital Improvement Projects Bond appears to be falling short for a second time this year, and three times since November of 2022.    The bond would modernize three of Eastmont’s oldest and most overcrowded schools - Cascade, Kenroy, and Lee Elementary - and include major upgrades at Rock Island Elementary.

The measure has received support from a majority of voters but not to the state constitutionally required 60 percent super majority to approve school bonds in Washington state.

In February, the package fell 34 votes short of passing. When voters were asked again just 11 weeks later on April 23rd, the measure appears to be falling even shorter, just 58.9% approval or 94 votes shy of passage.

The final tally will be Friday, May 3rd when results are certified.  About 100 ballots remain to be counted but a few may be from voters in the Brewster School District proposition 1  Nearly every uncounted vote would have to be in favor of the Eastmont bond for it to squeak past the 60% threshold.

The funding request on the April ballot was the third try to to pay for Capital improvements in the Eastmont Schools in under 17 months.  A bond package of $185 million garnered just 51% approval in November 2022.

Now it appears two attempts with a scaled back $117 million package will likely fall just short of passage, but still somewhere around 59% approval.  Supporters point out all three requests received majority support.

Should the threshold to pass school construction bonds be lowered in Washington state?

There was legislation proposed in Olympia this session to drop the requirement to pass school construction bonds to 55%, halfway between the 60% super majority and the simple majority (50% plus 1 vote) required to approve school levies.

For the change to take effect, lawmakers would have to pass an amendment to the state constitution which would need 60% approval in both houses in the legislature and approval by a majority of voters statewide.  The legislation did not get out of committee consideration according to 12th District Representative Mike Steele.

Center Square reported (HB1843) proposed to drop the standard to pass a school construction bond to 55%.

The question up for debate is, should we move the goal posts for school construction bonds since they have proven difficult to pass at the 60% requirement?

Arguments for lowering the mark to pass school bonds:

  • The 50% plus 1 vote is the standard to pass a property tax levy, raise sales taxes in taxing districts and elect candidate who can raise your taxes without a vote in many instances.
  • Supporters point out that 18 of the 20 school bond elections in 2023 failed to reach 60% threshold to pass.  Six measures garnered at least 55% approval  but still fell short.
  • Washington and just 10 other states have set a threshold of higher than 50% to pass school bonds.

Arguments against a lower threshold for passing school bonds:

Bonds are usually proposed for the funding of large capital projects, such as the construction of new school buildings.

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12th District State Senator Brad Hawkins represents the Wenatchee and East Wenatchee area and sits on the Senate Education Committee.  Hawkins has voted against a bill that would've lowered bond approval to 50 percent.

Hawkins has noted school bonds can significantly alter property taxes in communities and warrant a higher threshold.

Tax levies typically last for a couple of years, and must be reapproved on a regular basis, whereas bonds can be tied to property taxes for up to 25 years..

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