Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Cheney High School bond comes up short

School district’s maintenance and operations levy easily passing, board to weigh next steps at Feb. 25 meeting

 


With election certification the only step remaining, the Cheney School District is poised to go 1 for 2 with last Tuesday’s special election ballot proposals.

The district’s three-year Educational Programs and Operations (Maintenance and Operations) levy will pass with 65.61 percent yes votes. The levy will raise $9.3 million in 2016, $9.5 in 2017 and $9.7 million in 2017 through levy rates of $3.17, $3.14 and $3.11 per $1,000 of assessed property tax valuation, with the money going to fund a number of programs including many not covered or not covered entirely by state funding.

“We’re very thankful for the community support of the levy,” Associate Superintendent Sean Dotson said.

On the other hand, the more expensive $44.88 million, 20-year construction bond for expansion and renovations to the district’s only high school was receiving just 58.41 percent approval, with 60 percent needed for passage. As of the final count Feb. 12, the bond had 3,689 yes votes to 2,627 no votes, leaving the measure’s approval an estimated 100 votes shy of the 60 percent needed for passage, Dotson said.

“It was very close,” he said, adding the estimated number of yes votes was based on current counts.

The bond proposal received over 60 percent in nine of the district’s 26 precincts, including all five in Cheney where overall support was 68.84 percent, with two precincts topping 71 percent. In Cheney, 1,563 voters returned their ballots, with 1,076 marking the “approve” box.

Three of the other four precincts with over 60 percent approval votes are in the county, with the fourth being in Airway Heights south of U.S. Highway 2. Voters in six precincts were rejecting the bond, a number that included both precincts south of Cheney to the Whitman County border, one precinct running west along either side of Salnave Road around Medical Lake to the Lincoln County line, one straddling Highway 2 west of Airway Heights and one north of the highway northwest of Fairchild Air Force Base.

Voters in the remaining 11 districts were approving the bond by varying percentages, ranging from 51.08 percent in precinct 6015 in the Geiger Heights area to 57.64 percent in Airway Heights’ precinct 6402 north of Highway 2, but all below the 60 percent needed.

In Airway Heights, 57.39 percent of the 568 residents that voted supported the bond. Of the three precincts in the Windsor/Marshal/South Geiger Heights area, 55.81 percent of the 1,093 who voted approved the measure while 53.33 percent of the 525 voters in the Geiger Heights area voted yes.

Overall turnout in the school district was 37.54 percent, with just 6,405 of a possible 17,060 voters returning their ballots. It was the second lowest overall among all county school districts, Spokane’s District 81 coming in at 36 percent.

Dotson said the next step for the district is to hold a public comment period at the school board’s next regular meeting, Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. at Salnave Elementary School. The next election where the bond proposal can be run is in April.

“For the board right now, they need to know what is the interest of the community,” Dotson said. “If the interest is there, they’ll re-run it.”

Those wishing to make comments must fill out blue comment cards, with remarks limited to 3-5 minutes. Dotson said the board would listen and consider any suggested changes to the current bond proposal, although incorporating those into the April election would be difficult considering the timeframe.

“Being close to 60 percent, I think that says there’s a lot of support for this proposal,” he added.

If the district chooses to place the bond measure on the April ballot it will cost them more money. Mike McLaughlin, Spokane County elections, said election costs are pro-rated across all districts taking part. A similar election held in 2012 cost $18,174.

“I would expect the cost for this election (Feb. 10) to be in the $20,000 (range) for the Cheney School district,” McLaughlin said in an email.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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