Pasco School Superintendent Michelle Whitney knows Pasco classrooms are overcrowded and going to get worse.
But after voters rejected the district’s $69.5 million bond this week, school officials plan to return to the community for ideas about how to ease the problem.
And at the same time, the district is asking a consultant for short-term solutions. The company already is working on a longer-term plan for the rapidly expanding school population.
After a second day of ballot counting Wednesday, the bond continued to be short of the 60 percent needed for approval.
The Franklin County Auditor’s Office said 5,217, or nearly 57 percent, were passing the measure, and 3,943 or 43 percent were against it.
The bond would have added two elementary schools, replaced a middle school and made a series of other improvements to existing buildings. It would have increased property taxes by 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
The elementary schools, along with four classrooms for Marie Curie STEM Elementary, would have alleviated some overcrowding issues where it was needed the most.
We are definitely prepared to regroup. We are moving forward looking at how to solve the problem.
Pasco School Superintendent Michelle Whitney
Since 2000, the school district has grown each year by about 600 students — roughly the equivalent of an elementary school.
“We know we have an overcrowding problem here in Pasco,” Whitney said. The district reports a current average of 28 elementary students per brick-and-mortar classroom.
She said they expect to ask district consultant MGT of America to poll the community, as well as seek ideas from district employees and others experts.
The district can legally put the bond issue back on the ballot later this year, possibly in April or November. But Whitney said they will collect more information before making that decision. State law limits districts to two bond votes a year.
“We are definitely prepared to regroup,” Whitney said. “We are moving forward looking at how to solve the problem.”
The Richland School District’s $99 million bond was passing by 61.5 percent, or 9,529 votes in favor.
And the district passed the 14,647-ballot threshold it needed to validate the election.
The Benton County Auditor’s Office reported 15,496 ballots had been received by Wednesday afternoon.
School Board President Rick Jansons was cautiously optimistic.
“Thank you to the voters of the Richland School District for continuing to support quality education,” he said.
The bond will replace Badger Mountain and Tapteal elementary schools, and build two new elementary schools.
Some work for the projects started prior to the bond passing, including looking for land in south or West Richland for the fourth school, Jansons said.
Thank you to the voters of the Richland School District for continuing to support quality education.
School Board President Rick Jansons
“We have preliminary designs. We have some of the land,” he said. “I personally wouldn’t think we can spend any money until we certify (the election results).”
The board also began looking for an architect.
Growth in enrollment in southern and West Richland, combined with state-mandated daylong kindergarten and reduced class size is driving the need for more space, district officials have said.
The measure is expected to add 49 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The Finley School District’s $10 million bond was passing with 62 percent approval, or 560 votes, after more ballots were counted Wednesday.
“I don’t think it gets much closer,” said Superintendent Lance Hahn. “We’re feeling confident and we’re feeling good.”
The bond will fix aging facilities throughout the district, including replacing the middle school roof and new lighting.
About $2.6 million will be for improvements at the district’s athletic fields and physical education programs, and $2.1 million will pay to renovate the Career and Technical Education building and greenhouses.
Columbia and Prosser
Prosser’s $69.3 million school bond was passing by 73 percent, or 2,265 yes votes. The money will replace the high school and pay to remodel and expand three elementary schools
The Columbia (Burbank) School District’s $4.5 million bond was passing by 69 percent, or 592 yes votes. The money will add an elementary school gym and two classrooms.