Bond vote numbers stagnant across Valley

Snoqualmie Valley School District board

Snoqualmie Valley School District board

to weigh options at April 17 meeting

Final numbers from the March 11 election, in which the Snoqualmie Valley School District bond fell just short of the 60 percent approval it needed to pass, showed little change from the results of a similar election in May 2007.

“Both cumulatively, and by precinct there weren’t significant shifts,” said Joel Aune, superintendent of the school district.

Last month, 58.7 percent of Valley voters approved the bond, which would have built a second high school, a sixth elementary school, and made various improvements throughout the district. Last May, 58.5 percent voted to approve a similar bond with a larger price tag.

A breakdown by area also showed stagnation, Aune said.

Like last time, Snoqualmie Ridge voters were most supportive of the bond; about 80 percent voted for approval, according to an analysis of election results given to the Valley Record by Valley Voters for Education, a non-profit organization that campaigned for the bond.

Exactly half of voters in historic Snoqualmie approved the measure, while 62.6 percent of North Bend voters supported it. About 51 percent of Fall City voters voted “yes,” while approval rates ranged between 45 and 48 percent in the rest of unincorporated land, according to the analysis.

The school board will discuss where to go from here on Thursday, April 17. Members of the public are invited to listen in on the discussion, which starts at 6:30 p.m., and stay for the board’s regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the district office, located at 8001 Silva Ave. S.E. in Snoqualmie.

Options on the table to ease school overcrowding include putting together bond proposals for elections in August or November of this year, or February 2009. A new proposal might be broken down into two or more smaller pieces to address different needs.

The district will also look at “what we will do in the absence of any additional resources to meet these needs,” Aune said.

That plan could include reconfiguring grade levels to have kindergarten through sixth grade at elementary schools, seventh through ninth grade at middle schools, and 10th through 12th grade at the high school.

Other options are creating a ninth-grade campus at a new or existing facility; creating some smaller “satellite academy” high schools; designing a double shift schedule at Mount Si; and “expanding Mount Si by utilizing Snoqualmie Middle School,” Aune said.

“Those are more undesirable solutions, but the type we may need to incorporate if we can’t pass a bond or levy in the near future,” he said.

Following the May 2007 bond failure, the district tried to reach out to the community for feedback, Aune said.

“We asked what they liked, what they’d support, their concerns. We thought that we had identified some common themes that would help us in terms of modifying the proposition,” he said.

Aune said the weakening economy likely played a large role in the failure.

“People are concerned about the future, and react in a negative way to taxes. You saw that across the entire state,” he said. Only two of 13 school bonds in Washington passed on March 11.

Aune also pointed to a “strong sentiment in the community that developers ought to have to pay for school facilities as opposed to taxpayers.”

However, that’s a variable outside of the district’s control.

“We have to operate within that sytem and do the best that we can in terms of sharing the information with the community and getting support for facilities,” Aune said.