A classroom with folding walls inside College Place Middle School in Lynnwood, Washington, on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2023. Noise transfers easily between rooms. If approved, a capital bond measure on the February ballot would allow the school district to rebuild both College Place Elementary and Middle. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

School measures rejected in Arlington, Lakewood, Sultan; pass elsewhere

Edmonds and Stanwood-Camano voters favored levies for schools Tuesday. Arlington passed two levies, but rejected funding for a new middle school.

EVERETT — Sultan Elementary School has two trailers parked outside to help meet restroom capacity, at a campus that officials described as “falling apart.”

There are 50 portable classrooms spread across the school district. And the district has already bought land where leaders hope to open a new elementary school — if they can secure the funding one day.

But the Sultan School District’s push for direly needed upgrades fell well short in a special election Tuesday.

Children walk to get a drink where half of a gym is used for physical education class while the other serves as a makeshift lunch station at the Sultan Elementary School on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024 in Sultan, Washington. Students have to walk to the gym to pick up food and then eat in their classrooms. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Children walk to get a drink where half of a gym is used for physical education class while the other serves as a makeshift lunch station at the Sultan Elementary School on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024 in Sultan, Washington. Students have to walk to the gym to pick up food and then eat in their classrooms. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Proposition 1 needed to reach a 60% threshold to approve the $79 million bond. In the initial count, just 46.1% of returned ballots were in favor.

Two measures in the Lakewood School District, near Marysville, were also narrowly failing.

Meanwhile in the Arlington, Edmonds and Stanwood-Camano school districts, voters largely said yes to education in the special election Tuesday, passing several bond and levy measures to increase funding.

One notable exception? Arlington voters rejected a bond to fund a new middle school. Even though a majority of voters in the district favored the bond, it fell short of the 60% threshold.

About 11,000 ballots remained to be counted, Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell wrote in an email Wednesday morning.

“These are ballots that were picked up last night from the drop boxes or received in this morning’s mail,” Fell wrote. “We could still get more on time ballots in the mail or voters curing signature issues over the next 9 days.”

Over $1 billion in funding was at stake in school-related measures on ballots in Snohomish County.

Voters in Fire District 22, which serves Getchell, also restored a levy last passed in 2020. And Marysville voters reauthorized a tax for transportation projects.

Bond measures, like the ones in Arlington, Edmonds and Sultan, need 60% to pass. Levies need a simple majority.

Turnout was roughly 25.4%, with the next ballot drop set for 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Stanwood-Camano saw the highest return rates, with 30.5% of ballots coming back in the district, which includes both Island and Snohomish county residents. The Stanwood-Camano School District has about 30,000 voters, roughly half of whom are Island County residents.

Island County had about 1,500 ballots yet to be counted, Deputy Auditor Michele Reagan confirmed in an email. The school levy was the county’s only election on the Feb. 13 ballot.

The lowest turnout was in Marysville, with a mere 18.3% return rate on the transportation measure.

Arlington School District

Arlington voters appeared to support two levies but vote down a bond measure Tuesday night.

Proposition 1 was at 54.4% approval, Proposition 2 was at 56.7% approval and Proposition 3 was at 54.1%, though the latter needed 60%.

The school district was asking voters for one levy to support staff and operations, another levy to “support the modernization and remodeling of school facilities,” and the bond “to replace Post Middle School and improve traffic flow onto the Post/Eagle Creek/Stillaguamish Valley Learning Center campus,” the district’s website stated.

The voters’ pamphlet said school taxes from the three propositions, if all passed, would total about $3.16 per $1,000 of assessed property.

Proposition 1, an Educational Programs and Operations levy, would cost taxpayers $1.65 per $1,000 of property. It would pay for “staffing, educational programs and operations expenses not funded by the state.”

Proposition 2, a capital levy to cover infrastructure, would cost $0.77 per $1,000.

Proposition 3, to build a new middle school, would cost $0.74 per $1,000.

Edmonds School District

Edmonds was on track to collect a windfall in funding for schools as ballots were counted on election night.

Several schools in the district were built over 50 years ago, with safety and accessibility measures falling behind modern standards.

Proposition 1, a construction bond, sat at 64.2% approval — safely above the 60% threshold.

If the measure passes, the district can issue up to $595 million in construction bonds.

Proposition 2, a capital and technology levy, sat at 64.0%, pointing toward the levy living on for another four years. The levy would allow the district to collect $30 million annually from 2025 to 2028, through a property tax of 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The rate is set to decrease each year, falling to 53 cents in 2028.

The music room inside College Place Middle School in Lynnwood, Washington, on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2023. If approved, a capital bond measure on the February ballot would allow the school district to rebuild both College Place Elementary and Middle. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The music room inside College Place Middle School in Lynnwood, Washington, on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2023. If approved, a capital bond measure on the February ballot would allow the school district to rebuild both College Place Elementary and Middle. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Regardless of the outcome of either proposition, the district’s tax rate was set to remain unchanged, according to Yes for ESD Kids, a volunteer group advocating for the measures.

Approval of the bond measure will allow the district to build five new schools and accelerate the construction of another. The bond would also replace an existing capital levy passed in 2021, helping the district complete construction sooner.

The technology levy would allow the district to update tech in schools and support professional training for staff.

“I am so proud of what we’ve been able to do, working together for our community’s children,” district Superintendent Rebecca Miner said in a statement. “Building these new schools will impact generations of students to come and providing adequate technology to students and staff will support teaching and learning in our district for the next four years.”

Lakewood School District

The replacement school levy in Proposition 1 was failing with 47.8% approving the measure. If results hold, the district will miss out on $7 to $8 million that would have been collected annually from 2025 to 2028.

The proposition was intended to pay for programs not funded by the state, such as extracurriculars, special education, transportation and building maintenance.

Proposition 2, a levy for capital improvements and safety, was teetering toward failing with only 48.5% in favor. If this trajectory continues, the district won’t bring in $17 million in levy funds over four years. The property tax rate was set to begin at 87 cents in 2025 and climb to 99 cents in 2028.

The cash would go to improving the district’s HVAC, electric systems, plumbing, fire alarms and energy efficiency.

Stanwood-Camano School District

Stanwood-Camano voters were poised to renew a school levy, with the yes vote sitting at 60.4%.

Approval of the proposition means the district could collect around $80 million from 2025 to 2028. This would cover staff and program costs not supported by the state.

Sultan School District

Despite efforts from parents, teachers and administrators to highlight serious facility issues in its school system, voters appeared to not back a bond proposal from Sultan School District.

Approval for the bond sat at 46.1%, well short of the 60% needed to pass.

“I think certainly we’re disappointed and there are things we need to learn and understand,” Sultan Superintendent Dan Chaplik said Wednesday. “We need to collectively come up with a way to solve this problem.”

Chaplik said messaging “has to be clearer” around the bond issue. He thanked the Citizen Facility Advisory Committee for its work and mentioned some who came to those meeting had no idea of the issues buildings in the school district faced.

Chaplik said the district is “listening, communicating and we want to reach out” to the community and find a solution.

School leaders sought to get a nearly $79 million bond passed for the district, which school leaders have declared as critical for the learning environment at their schools. Students are asked to go the bathroom in outdoor trailers and do not have access to running water in some portable classrooms.

Children play next to the main school building and portable classrooms at the Sultan Elementary School on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024 in Sultan, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Children play next to the main school building and portable classrooms at the Sultan Elementary School on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024 in Sultan, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The bond would have funded a new elementary school on Sultan Basin Road, as well as renovations on Gold Bar Elementary and the current Sultan Elementary School.

The district officially purchased land for the new elementary from the state earlier this month. The state’s Board of Natural Resources approved the transfer Feb. 6. The school district bought the 49-acre parcel for $455,000. The money came from impact fees from home construction in the area, state officials said.

“Supporting public education is one of my department’s most critical functions, and this transaction will provide a lasting legacy to students in the Skykomish Valley,” Hilary Franz, the state’s commissioner of public lands, said in a press release. “By creating a future facility site and allowing DNR to acquire properties better suited to fund our schools in the future, this is a win-win for the Sultan School District and the State of Washington.”

Marysville

Marysville voted to continue a 0.2% sales tax for the Marysville Transportation Benefit District.

It was passing with 71.1% in the first ballot drop.

The 10-year tax was first approved in 2014. Money collected can only be used for transportation improvements, maintenance and projects in the city’s transportation plan.

Fire District 22

Residents in Fire District 22, which serves the Getchell area, restored a levy of $1.50 per $1,000 in property value to fund fire services.

Approval for the measure was at 59.6% in the first ballot drop.

Voters had approved the $1.50 rate in 2020, as well as in several other prior elections, but when assessed property values changed, the tax rate gradually slipped to $1.01. Under state law, fire districts are limited to a 1% increase in tax revenue and are required to put the measure to a vote if the district needs more than a 1% increase.

“The District’s Board of Commissioners has determined that this proposition is necessary to maintain an effective level of services, fire fighter staffing, equipment and facilities in light of rising costs,” the voters’ guide stated.

Jordan Hansen: 425-339-3046; jordan.hansen@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jordyhansen.

Ashley Nash: 425-339-3037; ashley.nash@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @ash_nash00.

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