Voters approve Blaine school levy; super-majority for bond approval still uncertain

Published on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 by Pat Grubb

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Blaine school district’s replacement maintenance and operations levy passed handily in Tuesday’s special election but the $3 million capital improvement bond remains a nail biter.

Requiring a 60 percent super-majority, the measure received 60.3 percent approval in the first round of ballot counting. Those giving the nod to the measure totaled 2,300 versus 1,514 voters who drew the ballot line for “no.”

On the other hand, the M&O levy easily surpassed the simple majority required with 2,430 voters marking off “yes,” while 1,403 turned thumbs down, for a 63.4 percent approval rate.

Blaine school superintendent Ron Spanjer described the district’s mood as “cautiously optimistic that the measure will hold above the 60 percent required for approval and that we will be able to start the process of addressing some long awaited, long needed facility improvements.” Spanjer went on to say that school officials were “very much appreciative of the support that our patrons have shown in approving this measure.

With the unprecedented trend of revenue reduction from the state in play over the last four years, the local levy has served, and will continue to serve, as the source for sustaining critical programs for students.”

All Whatcom County school districts had similar experiences with their replacement M&O measures with approval rates ranging from a low of 57.3 percent for the Mt. Baker district to a high of 67.4 percent for the Bellingham district.

Voters in other districts were as tightfisted as Blaine voters when it came to capital improvement bonds.

Mt. Baker district voters failed to approve their facilities and technology levy as only 57.3 percent voted in favor of passage. Nooksack’s technology and capital project levy appears to be squeaking through with 60.77 percent of voters nodding yes.
Continuing the trend of voters approving replacement measures, Bellingham’s replacement technology capital projects levy passed with 67.4 percent of voters giving their approval to the measure.

An updated count will be released at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Whatcom County election officials estimate there are still 2000 or so ballots left to count. Out of 117,137 registered voters in the county, slightly more than 37 percent, or 43,886, returned their mail-in ballots to the county.

Looking forward, Blaine and other school districts will have to ask themselves a question: Given ever tightening funds from the state, what do they need to do to convince voters (1,403, in Blaine’s case) to vote yes on simply funding basic operating costs of the school district?