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Elma stadium ballot measure going down in flames

While school district voters around the East County and the rest of Grays Harbor easily approved all the maintenance and operations levies on Tuesday’s special election ballot, an $8.4 million bond measure to build a new athletic stadium in Elma seems to be going down in a pretty significant defeat. Unlike the M&O levies, which require a simple majority to pass, the bond measure requires a 60 percent super-majority and after votes were counted for the first time Tuesday night, it was drawing less than 46 percent approval by Elma district voters.

The bond measure asked voters in the Elma School District to approve the replacement of the aged Davis Field grandstands with a new stadium.

County Elections officials say 10,344 ballots were received out of just more than 32,355 sent as of Tuesday night. That’s a voter turnout of 31.94 percent.

The Elma School District accounted for 4,376 of the ballots sent; McCleary School District had 1,612 and Oakville had 1,276 sent out. The Elma School District also needed a turnout of at least 829 voters for its bond measure to the validation threshold.

The Elma School District also had a two-year M&O levy on the ballot for 2015-16. That was approved by a large margin, 1,073 votes to 615 or 63.57 percent in favor. That levy will cost district taxpayers $3.69 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2015 and 2016. That translates to $369 per year for a home with an assessed value of $100,000.

“We appreciate all the support we got for the levy, because that’s vital. It’s 20 percent of our budget,” King said.

But the School District just couldn’t convince the same voters to cross over and approve the stadium bond.

The 20-year, $8.4 million stadium measure was figured to cost taxpayers about 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed value if approved, meaning the taxes on a $100,000 home would have gone up about $95 per year for two decades, if approved.

So far, the Elma bond measure has 773 “yes” votes and 912 against, which meant 54.12 percent of the voters rejected it. The next vote update will take place on Friday afternoon and will include ballots that were postmarked by Feb. 11, but did not reach the Elections Office in time for the initial count.

“It didn’t work this time around,” said Elma School District Superintendent Howard King on Tuesday night. “It didn’t pass. There won’t be a stadium built this time around.”

King said he did not know if the school board would seek to try for another bond measure in an upcoming election.

“At this point in time, we don’t know,” King said. “We haven’t talked about it yet and there’s no definite plan to look at it again.”

King said he was not sure what Elma High would do about a home football field or soccer facilities. He said the football team might still play home games at Davis Field, but there won’t be any grandstands there as the school district will “definitely” proceed with plans to tear down the aging grandstands this summer.

“We still have a field,” King said. “We can still play at home. We just won’t have a stadium. The plan is still in place (to tear it down). Nothing has changed with that. There will not be a grandstand there.”

King said he was mostly disappointed for the students and community.

“It’s always a challenge to pass a stadium bond. That’s true for any district,” King said. “In the long run, it’s a disappointment for the kids and for the community at large.”

The McCleary School District also had a two-year M&O levy on the ballot for its voters to decide upon. It also is passing easily with 333 votes approving (64.4 percent) and only 184 votes against it (35.6 percent). The levy amount is $685,000 each year and is estimated to cost district taxpayers $3.78 per thousand of assessed value in 2015 and $3.74 per thousand in 2016. That averages out to about $376 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home.

The Oakville School District’s two-year levy, seeking $376,400 each year with an approximate rate of $2.14 per $1,000 of assessed value, is barely failing — by just nine votes. There were 165 votes (48.67 percent) for the levy and 174 against it (51.33 percent). That is one result that might change when the vote count is updated Friday.

The Mary M. Knight School District’s two-year levy proposition, seeking $684,677 in 2015 and $692,381 in 2016, is passing with 163 votes supporting it and 109 votes against it. The respective rates are $4.15 in 2015 and $4.20 in 2016.

The Wishkah School District easily passed its two-year M&O levy on the ballot with 161 voters — just over 70 percent — supporting the levy and only 68 voters against it. It will result in $411,984 for 2015 and $435,576 in 2016. The rates are $4.57 per thousand of assessed value in 2015 and $4.63 in 2016.

Elma, McCleary, Oakville and Mary M. Knight includes some voters from other counties because the school districts cross countylines.

Other two-year M&O levies on ballot the school districts in Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Cosmopolis, North Beach and Lake Quinault all passed. The Ocosta district had a three-year levy on the ballot, and it also passed.

M&O levies help supplement district general funds — paying for things like building maintenance and operations costs, textbooks, teaching positions, after-school activities, technology, teaching materials, counseling, athletics, music and clubs, food services, class-size reduction and more. Unanticipated changes in enrollment, emergency repair needs or state and federal legislative action on school funding could change how levy funds are eventually spent.

Most districts decided on two-year levies, even though state law now allows for up to four-year levies. Montesano School District is not on the ballot because it is currently in the middle of a four-year levy.

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