Voters in Vancouver, Battle Ground and Washougal approve ballot measures

Early results indicate voters in Ridgefield School District have failed to approve a $107 million bond for construction

VANCOUVER — Despite frustrations over property tax increases in recent years, Clark County voters were supportive of ballot measures before them in the Feb. 11 special election.

Initial returns provided by the Clark County Elections Department Tuesday night, indicated voters in the city of Battle Ground easily approved a pair of resolutions that will allow the annexation into Fire District 3.

Voters in the Vancouver School District also approved a proposition for a supplemental school levy.

Turnout for the special election was 28.84 percent of registered voters. Election officials indicated they expected another 8,000 votes to be counted in the days following the election.

Here’s a look at the results of the Feb. 11 special election:

Battle Ground Fire District 3 annexation

City of Battle Ground voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1 by a margin of 82.02 percent to 17.98 percent. They also approved Fire District 3 Proposition 3 by a wide margin, 74.89 percent to 25.11 percent. 

Voters in the city of Battle Ground approved a ballot measure for the annexation of Fire District 3. Photo by Chris Brown
Voters in the city of Battle Ground approved a ballot measure for the annexation of Fire District 3. Photo by Chris Brown

The city of Battle Ground currently contracts fire and emergency medical services to Clark County Fire District 3, but the cost of that contract was projected to go up when it expires next year. The city already spends $1.35 of its $1.37 per $1,000 property tax levy on the Fire District 3 contract, which leaves only a small amount for the city to spend. The next contract was projected to exceed the property tax levy, meaning the district would likely have had to scale back services in the city in order to keep costs in line.

Members of the Battle Ground City Council approved a 10-cent reduction in utility rate taxes, amounting to a 46 percent reduction, in order to offset some of the increased cost if the annexation was approved. But, it will still end up costing property owners more. Approximately $1.30 per thousand for the levy to Fire District 3. The city has promised that the funding freed up by annexation would help to improve police and fire services, repair deteriorating roads, and improve a number of parks in the city. 

Vancouver Schools Supplemental Levy

Vancouver Public Schools’ supplemental levy passed on election night. The district’s first supplemental levy received 59.27 percent approval. By state law, levies for school funding need a 50 percent simple majority vote for passage. Historically, late-arriving ballots have caused the percentage of yes votes to rise after election day, according to Vancouver Public Schools’ officials.

“I am extremely grateful to this community for providing more than 55 years of continuous financial support for our students and schools,” said Superintendent Steve Webb in a statement released by Vancouver Public Schools Tuesday night. “This election shows the value our voters hold for the education of our children and youth.”

The three-year supplemental levy will maintain current levels of programs and services through 2023. It will make up a $10 million budget deficit the district experienced due to changes in state funding for K-12 schools. 

Levy results will be certified on Feb. 21. 

For more information, go to the VPS website.

Ridgefield School Bond

It appears the $107 million Ridgefield School Bond is failing by a small margin, just as a $77 million bond failed to receive approval by voters in 2019.

Tuesday’s results showed 58.41 percent (3,804) of the voters were in favor of Proposition 5 and 41.59 percent (2,709) were opposed.  While just a simple majority is required for the approval of school levies, a super majority of 60 percent plus one is needed for approval of bonds.

The bond would have added a 5-6 grade intermediate school, which would eventually have been home to another 5-8 campus, similar to the View Ridge/Sunset Ridge campus built with the 2017 bond. It would also have replaced the high school’s aging vocational program with a new, modernized building, built a new elementary school, and improved several playgrounds that no longer meet access standards.

The 2019 bond fell just over 1 percent short of the 60 percent-plus-one majority needed to approve bonds. Superintendent Nathan McCann says Ridgefield schools expects over 1,700 new students just in the next few years. Failure of the bond would create the need for dozens of portables, and the acquisition of new land to put them on. 

The bond would have tacked on an estimated 97 cents per thousand to the tax bill of a house, or $388 more annually for a $400,000 home. The district warned that, should the bond fail to pass, the cost of building new schools will continue to rise, and delays could hamper their ability to address the growth in student populations.

Washougal School levies

Voters approved a pair of levies in the Washougal School District. Proposition 8, which will replace the expiring maintenance and operations levy, passed with 54.68 percent approval, compared to 45.32 percent of the votes cast in opposition. 

Proposition 9, a replacement of the district’s its expiring Capital Levy for Instructional Technology, passed with 58.12 percent of the votes, compared to 41.88 percent in opposition.

Proposition 8 will increase from the previous cap of $1.50 per thousand, it will not enact the full maximum allowed $2.50 rate, instead opting for a rate of $2.14, which will raise an estimated $7,392,656 next year, rising to $8,622,793 in 2023.

The Proposition 9 rate will be $0.25 per thousand next year, dropping a bit in the following two years. The money will go to replacing outdated technology in classrooms, and providing state-of-the-art equipment for students to learn on.

The district says the overall property tax rate for Washougal schools will increase from $6.97 currently, to $7.14 next year, with slight decreases in the final two years of the levy.

Woodland School Levy

The Woodland School levy was on the ballot in both Clark and Cowlitz counties and it failed in both. Only 45.21 percent of Clark County voters in the Woodland School District (WSD) voted in favor and 54.79 percent were opposed. The WSD voters in Clark County responded in very similar fashion, with 55.58 percent in opposition and 44.42 percent in favor.

WSD officials were seeking to replace its expiring supplemental levy with a new one at a rate of $2.37 per thousand next year, followed by $2.36 in 2022 and 2023. The levy would have raised an estimated $5,400,000 next year, increasing to $6,100,000 in 2023.

The district says the funding would have helped to cover a 12.5 percent gap in state funding, and prevent cuts to staffing levels.

Be sure to check back with Clark County Today this week for updated results from the special election.