UPDATED: Pasco school bond passing with 61 percent of vote

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 13, 2013 

— UPDATE: The $46.8 million bond for the Pasco School District is passing with more than 61 percent approval, according to a new tally issued by the Franklin County Auditor's Office this afternoon.

There are still more than 100 ballots left to count but they aren't expected to alter the course of the election.

ORIGINAL POST FROM TUESDAY NIGHT: The proposed $46.8 million bond for the Pasco School District received 59.35 percent of the vote as of an initial tally Tuesday night, just shy of the 60 percent needed.

The Franklin County Auditor’s Office still had 1,000 ballots on hand to count today. District officials and bond supporters estimated they need at least 650 to 700 “yes” votes from those ballots to get the bond through.

Ballots had to be postmarked by Tuesday, so more are expected in the mail. The election will be certified on Feb. 26.

Superintendent Saundra Hill lauded the efforts of the bond’s supporters at the district’s administrative offices on Lewis Street Tuesday night.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed and let the auditor do their job and then we can decide where to go from there,” she said.

However, the mood in the room was somber after the first tally fell short.

“Pins and needles,” said Mike Miller, chairman of Pasco Citizens for Better Schools.

The bond would pay for three new schools — an elementary school at Road 52 and Powerline Road, an early learning center at Road 60 and Sandifur Parkway in West Pasco, and a new elementary school next to Whittier Elementary School in east Pasco.

The district also would keep sixth-graders in all elementary schools once the new schools are built. Sixth-graders currently are in the district's middle schools.

The bond also would pay for a number of other projects. They include the relocation of New Horizons High School (which must move out of facilities at Columbia Basin College's Pasco campus), additional science labs at Pasco High School, improvements at Stevens Middle School, and redesign of the bus loop at Mark Twain Elementary School.

The new bond would cost taxpayers 34 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, or $34 a year for a home with an assessed value of $100,000. The district also expects to receive about $38.1 million in state matching dollars for the projects.

Pasco’s enrollment is at 15,700 students, having doubled since 2000. Many of its schools house hundreds more students then they were built to handle.

Voters rejected a $59 million bond proposal in 2011 that would have built an elementary school, middle school and early learning center.

Tuesday’s tally is an improvement over that last bond, which only had about 46 percent approval. When asked what ultimately led voters to perhaps still not get the bond approved, Miller said it likely came down to taxes and economic factors.

Pasco school officials said that without the bond, the district would have to implement either multi-track year-round operations or doubleshifting to accommodate the student population.

Under a multi-track approach, schools would operate year-round, but not all students would be in school at the same time. For example, one student might attend classes beginning in June, another beginning in September. Some students would have to go to school during the summer or would be in school while their siblings aren't.

With double shifting, schools would stay open longer each day, with classes starting as early as 6 a.m. and going as late as 6 p.m. One group of students would have class in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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