Voters in every Thurston County school district weighed in on at least one funding measure in a special election held Feb. 11, and initial results show most are passing.
But bonds that need super-majorities are in jeopardy, and one district’s levy that needs 50 percent to pass is teetering on the edge. Meanwhile, a technology-related issue made the results of two local races difficult to confirm.
All eight Thurston County districts asked voters to approve Educational Programs and Operations replacement levies. As of Tuesday evening, with voter turnout at 28.6 percent, the Thurston County Auditor’s Office reported all replacement operations levies passing in Thurston County.
In Olympia School District, where the replacement levy was the only measure considered, 10,020 voters had approved and 4,360 had voted no in the initial tally.
“We are grateful to the voters of Olympia for supporting the students, staff and families of the Olympia School District,” Superintendent Patrick Murphy said in a statement emailed to The Olympian.
Yelm Community Schools reaches into Pierce County, and the combined county results were not complete on the Washington Secretary of State’s website Tuesday night. Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall told The Olympian the Secretary of State’s voter registration “results function” was not working, causing statewide issues.
Based on results reported by Pierce County and Thurston County, the district’s replacement operations levy appears to be passing with just under 51 percent of the vote — however, that number has not been officially recorded.
“We typically get a lot of people that vote on the last day, so we have really high returns and so we’ll be on pins and needles until tomorrow at 5 p.m.,” Superintendent Brian Wharton told The Olympian in a phone interview Tuesday. “I think we’ll have a really good sense of where we’re at tomorrow at 5 p.m.”
Some districts — Griffin, North Thurston, Rochester, and Tumwater — put forth an additional levy or bond for specific purposes. Levies require a simple majority of 50 percent to pass, while bonds require a super majority of 60 percent.
The two districts that sought additional levies, Griffin and Tumwater, saw early success: In Griffin, a capital levy that would allow it to levy $755,000 in property taxes in 2021 and 2022 was passing Tuesday, with 1,011 yes votes and 644 no votes. Tumwater’s capital levy that would allow it to levy $10 million over 2021-22 was passing with 4,741 yes votes and 3,243 no votes.
North Thurston’s replacement operations levy, which according to the district website funds 12 percent of its overall budget, was passing easily, while its capital bond was on the edge of the super-majority threshold.
“We’re really excited and grateful for the levy approval,” Superintendent Debra Clemens told The Olympian in a phone interview Tuesday night. “Our community has come out again and again in support of our schools, and our students and staff and our parents and families so appreciate our community’s support. As the campaign has said over and over again: Quality schools equals a quality community.”
The bond, which includes safety and security improvements and improvements in school facilities, had 11,300 votes in favor and 7,457 votes against tallied as of Tuesday night. Clemens said the district will be watching those numbers closely.
“We’re ready to get to work for our community, we just need to hit that 60 percent threshold,” she said. “And, right now, we’re teetering on the edge of that.”