Voters in Thurston County’s eight public school districts turned out largely in support of the tax measures on Tuesday’s election ballot, according to early returns.
One exception: For the second time in less than a year, a nearly $59.5 million construction bond measure for Yelm Community Schools was failing. It received 52.2 percent “yes” votes in Tuesday’s ballot count, but needed 60 percent for approval.
“It’s disappointing,” Yelm superintendent Andy Wolf said Tuesday night. “You really want to do what’s right for kids. If you don’t see it every day, and you’re not at Southworth running seven lunch periods a day … I think it’s unfortunate.”
Yelm will need to begin making some immediate changes to address its expected 900 unhoused students, Wolf said. The first change will be adding more portable classrooms on its campuses, he said.
“Class sizes will get larger because we don’t have places to put kids,” Wolf added.
Meanwhile, cheers filled the waiting area at the Thurston County Elections shop when the results of all of the other school requests on the ballot were read, said Dick Cvitanich, superintendent of the Olympia School District.
“Everybody was cheering, and everyone had smiles on their faces,” he said. “Everyone was very nervous before the results were reported, and it was a sense of relief when they came out.”
The Olympia School District asked voters to approve a $160.7 million construction bond measure to add classrooms to multiple schools, renovate five schools, and make other capital improvements around the district. It received more than 71 percent “yes” votes in early returns.
“That exceeds where we thought it would be,” Cvitanich said. “Really, we’re just thankful for the community support. It just feels really great.”
Each Thurston County district requested a 4-year maintenance and operations (M&O) levy renewal, which generates local funding for ongoing expenses such as paraeducator salaries, transportation and maintenance. In most districts, local property tax levies bring in 15 to 21 percent of the revenue for their annual operating budgets. State and federal money make up the rest.
All of the levy measures on this year’s ballot are renewals of existing levies that are scheduled to expire this year. They required a simple majority approval, or 50 percent plus one, to pass. No turnout percentage was needed for the levies. Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall said overall turnout was at 28 percent Tuesday night. “We could potentially hit 30,” she said.
Raj Manhas, North Thurston Public Schools superintendent, said the support the district received for its levy measure was a reflection of its student-centered work, transparency and strong relationships in the business community.
“That all comes together on a night like this,” he said. “It’s like they (voters) are saying, ‘You guys are doing a good job.’ I feel the sense of that kind of support.”
Here are election results as of Tuesday night:
Griffin: 4-year, $9.15 million maintenance and operations levy, passing with 64.6 percent “yes” votes.
North Thurston: 4-year, $163.5 million M&O levy, passing with 66.8 “yes” votes.
Olympia: 4-year, $106.8 million M&O levy, 74.8 percent “yes” votes.
Olympia: 20-year, $160.7 million construction bond, passing with 71.3 percent “yes” votes.
Rainier: 4-year, $6.76 million M&O levy, passing with 64.6 “yes” votes.
Rochester: 4-year, $16.3 million M&O levy, passing with 61.7 percent “yes” votes. If approved, the district would also qualify for nearly $1 million in levy equalization funds from the state. The funding is available to communities that have a low tax base due to a lack of industry.
Tenino: 4-year, about $12.14 million M&O, passing with 55.7 percent “yes” votes. If the measure passes, the district will be eligible for about $250,000 in levy equalization funds from the state.
Tumwater: 4-year, $64.96 million M&O levy, passing with 66.1 percent “yes” votes.
Yelm: 4-year, $45.9 million M&O levy, passing with 56.9 percent “yes” votes. The district also will qualify for about $3 million in levy equalization funds allocated by the state.
Yelm: 21-year, $59.5 million bond, failing with 52.3 percent “yes” votes. It needed 60 percent for approval.