Voters rejecting Washougal School District levies

Unofficial results show majority of voters do not support replacing levies that help fund athletics, arts, technology and more

timestamp icon
category icon Latest News, News, Schools
Washougal School District Administrative Assistant Kori Kelly (left), Washougal School Board member Angela Hancock (center) and WSD Assistant Superintendent Aaron Hansen (right) hold "Vote Yes" signs along Washougal's Evergreen Way on Jan. 30, 2023. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Editor’s note: The online version of this article was updated Thursday, Feb. 16, to reflect the most up-to-date election results. 

Preliminary results show Washougal School District voters are rejecting the school district’s two replacement levies placed on the Feb. 14 special election ballot.

As of Thursday, Feb. 16, with 58,051 Clark County Special Election ballots counted and an estimated 500 ballots remaining, Proposition 10, the WSD’s replacement educational programs and operations (EPO) levy, had received 2,761 “no” votes (53%) and 2,415 “yes” votes (47%), while Proposition 11, the WSD’s replacement capital facilities and technology levy, had received 2,735 “no” votes (53%) and 2,410 “yes” votes (47%).

“Clearly we would’ve hoped for a different outcome,” WSD Superintendent Mary Templeton said the morning after the election. “In this community, historically, we have passed our levies because this district has made an investment and a commitment, so from that perspective it’s a surprise. But we’re moving forward in the process, and as we do we’re going to be (facing) some hard truths. We have to be honest and talk about what the levies fund (and communicate that if) they fail, as it appears that they may do, we will no longer be able to offer things like high school and middle school sports, performing arts programs, and nurses, healthcare assistants, security staff, club advisors, counselors and teachers will be impacted as well.”

Templeton said she has been thinking about the types of programs that could be in danger if the school district cannot pass the replacement levies — which supplement educational, technology and extracurricular activities not funded by the state or federal government.

“I think about our ‘Friday Night Lights’ and how important our football program is to this community,” Templeton said. “Many folks who have kids or don’t have kids in our system come (to games) because that’s where we (gather) as a community. Our levies fund ‘Friday Night Lights,’ and if we don’t have a levy that supports that, that’s going to have a big impact on our community.”

If approved, the levies would replace the school district’s three-year EPO and instructional technology levies, which are set to expire at the end of 2023.

The proposed EPO levy rates for 2023-25 would be lower than the rates voters approved in 2020: $1.99 per $1,000 assessed property value (APV) in 2024, 2025 and 2026, down from $2.14 per $1,000 APV in 2021, 2022 and 2023. If approved, the levy would collect $9.5 million in 2024, $10.5 million in 2025 and $11.5 million in 2026.

The bulk of the current EPO levy pays for student learning and staffing (42%) as well as operations and maintenance (29%) needs not covered by state or federal revenues. The remainder pays for athletics and activities (13%), instructional support (12%) and health and safety (4%) needs, also not covered by state or federal funds.

According to the school district, the replacement EPO levy would provide funding for a variety of programs and services, including librarians, secretaries, paraeducators, textbooks, curriculum development, food service, the district’s AVID program, events for Spanish-speaking families, preschool, art, music, advanced placement classes, the district’s highly capable program, professional development and training, substitute teachers and classified staff, special education teachers and support staff, English language learner support, athletics, coaches, advisors, transportation, custodians, grounds and maintenance staff, fuel, vehicles, security staff, counselors, nurses and family community resource coordinators.

Starting in 2025, the funds would also increase opportunities for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and visual and performing arts, district leaders said.

WSD leaders recommended keeping the replacement capital facilities and technology levy rate at 21 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value (APV) in 2024, then increasing it to 84 cents per $1,000 APV (2025) and to 85 cents per $1,000 APV in 2026, to help the district address several long-term maintenance and safety needs, including new security door access systems; a new roof at Washougal High School; new boilers and control systems for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in the district’s older buildings; new flooring; and doors at main building entrances that will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The school district projected the levy would collect $950,000 in 2024, $3.95 million in 2025, and $4.15 million in 2026.

“Without the funding from the capital levy to support technology, we will not be able to replace our devices,” Templeton said. “After a very short period of time, they will go away and we will not have technology in this district.”

The superintendent said she also was concerned by the low voter turnout, which was 31.88% as of Thursday, Feb. 16.

“The number of folks that voted in support of our levies was much, much lower than in the past,” Templeton said. “And, actually, we had less folks turn out for even a ‘no’ vote. The overall turnout was very low, so that’s a concern.”

Around 4,800 voters weighed in on the Washougal School District’s replacement levies during the Feb. 11, 2020, special election versus the 4,635 voters whose ballots have been counted so far in the Feb. 14, 2023 election.

Support for the school district’s replacement levies has fallen since 2017, when more than 60% of voters said “yes” to the replacement EPO levy. In 2020, the district’s levies still passed, but support decreased, with 54% of voters passing the EPO replacement levy.

Templeton said that Washougal School Board members will make a determination in the near future about the district’s “next steps.”

“I will be meeting with my board, and they will make determinations as to what the options are,” she said. “There’s options on the table, and the (board members) have to make some decisions. Soon we will be meeting with them to support them through those decision-making processes, and we’ll let folks know as soon as the board makes some decisions.”