A worker wears gloves while handling ballots from the Washington state primary election March 10 at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A worker wears gloves while handling ballots from the Washington state primary election March 10 at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

As virus spreads, interest wanes in April special election

No need for election as Everett, Darrington and Sultan schools pull levy, bond measures off ballot

EVERETT — There will be no April special election in Snohomish County. Or possibly anywhere in Washington.

Darrington, Everett and Sultan school districts reversed course this week and withdrew levy and bond measures intended for the ballot next month.

The moves, combined with similar actions by Lakewood School District and the city of Monroe last week, leave no ballot propositions for the April 28 election.

“I appreciate these districts responding in the best interests of our residents and our voters and delaying these important ballot measures,” Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell said on Tuesday.

Fell spoke with school superintendents of Everett and Darrington Monday, conveying challenges and potential risks of conducting an election amid the growing spread of COVID-19. Superintendents said later the conversation influenced their decision.

“The elections work we perform is intensely manual and places workers in close contact for hours and days,” Fell said he explained to them. “During this public health emergency, our ability to provide for a fair, secure election may be compromised if even a small number of staff are directly or indirectly impacted by a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kim Wyman on Tuesday asked Gov. Jay Inslee to cancel special elections statewide out of similar concerns of trying to conduct them safely and successfully. Eighteen counties, including Snohomish, have elections scheduled. Auditors of all 39 counties support Wyman’s request.

“There’s nothing about this that was easy,” Wyman said. “It was a difficult decision for my office but it was the right decision. I can’t see a path where every county that has an election could be guaranteed it would be successful.”

In Everett, school leaders have spent months building momentum to pass a $317 million construction bond.

As recently as Friday, they vowed to ask voters to approve the measure to pay for replacing three aging elementary schools, adding 36 new elementary classrooms and making renovations at each of the district’s three high schools.

Several community meetings had been held. An informational mailer had been prepared and was at the printer Tuesday but the order was canceled.

Everett schools Superintendent Ian Saltzman said he made the decision after speaking with Fell and consulting with the president of the school board.

“When the auditor calls, and he’s been a great partner with the district, we listen to his recommendations,” Saltzman said.

A decision on whether to try in August or November will be based on the evolving health care situation, according to a statement issued by the district.

“Now is the time to focus on coming together to help each other in responding to this worldwide health risk,” the statement reads. “We will determine the next steps for our bond and keep you posted.”

Darrington failed to pass a levy proposal in February. It was going to try again with a much slimmed-down measure.

By state law, school districts are given two chances to pass levies in a calendar year.

Superintendent Buck Marsh had said he considered April to be the last opportunity to pass the supplemental levy to avert large-scale budget cuts for the 2020-21 school year.

Now, the district will put the measure in front of voters in the Aug. 4 election. That could provide some clarity ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline to enact a budget for next school year.

Sultan School District decided to pull its proposed six-year, $12.7 million capital levy to pay for an array of safety, security, and critical infrastructure projects.

Lakewood School District pulled its two levy measures from the ballot last week. Officials said then it isn’t the right time to try to talk with voters about the district’s need for funding when their minds are rightly focused on coping with the effects of the pandemic.

The city of Monroe had planned to seek voter approval of an $8.2 million park bond.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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