Measures to renew, replace or add property tax levies in North Clark County school and fire districts have enough support from voters in the August primary election to pass as of the latest vote tallies.
Residents of the La Center and Ridgefield school districts, and those who live within the boundaries of Clark County fire districts 6, 10 and Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, had one or more of five ballot measures to vote for in those districts. As of The Reflector’s print deadline, each measure had either the majority approval or 60% supermajority it needed to be approved.
La Center, Ridgefield levies
La Center School District’s replacement maintenance and operations levy had about 52.1% approval as of the third count of ballots on Friday, Aug. 5. The levy would maintain the current $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value property tax rate.
When the initial count on election night showed the levy was passing by 36 votes, LCSD Superintendent Peter Rosenkranz said he was “anxiously hopeful.”
“I would be pleased with one additional vote that gets us over the margin, because it allows us to add programs back for kids,” Rosenkranz said.
The margin increased as the week went on.
The ballot measure was a second attempt by the district to pass a replacement levy. In February, the measure failed with only about 47.3% approval.
For this go at the levy, Rosenkranz said supporters “ran a completely different campaign” compared to years past with greater outreach and transparency.
La Center had already approved its 2022-23 budget with the assumption there would not be a levy. At that time, the required cuts were made for the decrease in funding, which Rosenkranz said can be added back into the mix once the election results are certified.
“Our work doesn’t stop. We continue to work on pushing for kids and supporting their learning,” Rosenkranz said.
The Ridgefield School District also ran a replacement levy on the ballot for the same $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value rate. As of Friday, Aug. 5, the levy had an approval rate of roughly 58.8%.
“I’m just thrilled with the result and very grateful to the community for stepping up and showing support for the school district,” RSD Superintendent Nathan McCann said.
August’s ballot measure only required a simple majority to pass. The past two measures the district put forth to voters this year for a construction bond required more than 60% approval. McCann said the differences in approach for both measure proponents and voters in each situation made it hard to compare the August vote to what would happen if Ridgefield runs another bond measure.
“I’ve never fully been convinced that you can extrapolate one election to the next,” McCann said.
Because of the district’s student population, Ridgefield has until Aug. 31 to approve the following school year’s budget. Preparations for what that budget would look like have been underway, McCann said, with the assumption that the levy would pass.
“Certainly we understood that may not be a guarantee,” McCann said. “We’re pleased that we can stay focused on Plan A.”
Fire levies set to pass
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue’s request of voters to approve a 50 cent per $1,000 of assessed value emergency medical services levy surpassed the 60% supermajority post, based on the latest election results.
As of Friday, the measure had an approval rating of about 62.5%. The funding from the levy will allow the district to hire up to 25 personnel. The staffing increase will allow each crew to have a paramedic on it, and will allow for full-time staffing at the district’s joint station with Clark County Fire District 6 by the county fairgrounds.
“I feel like this is an opportunity to really increase the level of service to the citizens of the district and to be able to make a difference in lives by providing the right care at the right time,” said CCFR Chief John Nohr.
With the levy in place, Nohr said the first batch of recruits will get to work in February. The additional staff would include lateral transfers from other agencies who already have the skills to do the job.
Following those new hires, the chief said CCFR will hire entry-level firefighter-paramedics who need academy training before they start to work for the department.
Nohr said it was evident the district had the support it needed when he spoke to residents while attending community events in the leadup to the election.
“They recognize the need. They appreciate the work the district’s doing,” Nohr said.
CCFR’s neighbors to the south had their renewal levy pass by a wide margin. Clark County Fire District 6’s emergency medical services renewal for 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value had about 78.7% approval as of Friday.
Of all of the ballot measures for fire districts in Washington state, fire district 6’s approval rate was the highest in this election, chief Kristan Maurer said.
“We were just ecstatic. It really just shows what a good job our crews do every day for our community and how much they appreciate us,” Maurer said.
She likened the high approval rating as a favorable “report card” for the district’s work.
“I’d put it as an A-plus,” Maurer said.
Though the renewal is mainly to maintain service levels in the district, Maurer noted it would also support the addition of LUCAS devices, which provide mechanical CPR on patients.
“We just really want to thank the community. We are just humbled by the support they give us,” Maurer said.
Clark County Fire District 10’s levy lid lift received enough support to pass. The lid lift from the current 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.35 per $1,000 had a roughly 64.2% approval as of Friday.
Fire District 10 Assistant Chief Gordon Brooks said the early returns had him cautiously optimistic about a ballot success.
“The numbers were strong enough that I didn’t think we needed to worry,” Brooks said.
The district previously ran a lid lift in 2017 to raise the levy to $1 per $1,000, which was approved by 77% of voters who cast ballots in favor of the measure. Brooks said having a lower approval this year wasn’t a surprise given current economic impacts on residents.
“I think though a lot of people in our community support us, because of their concerns for the economy they decided to not vote yes, and I totally understand that,” Brooks said.
The district sought the lid lift in order to add a second full-time crew to its operations. The district is already involved in the process to place living quarters at its station in View, between Fargher Lake and La Center.
Complications with that process may slow down how soon the largely volunteer district can have a full-time presence in the west end of its jurisdiction. Brooks said he has heard estimates ranging from three months to a year for having those living quarters in place.
“Our biggest delay may be getting something constructed,” Brooks said.
If there is too much of a delay, Brooks said the district could potentially move forward with hiring and have new personnel based at the current live-in station.
“It still improves our response, it just doesn’t affect response time to the west end of the district,” Brooks said.
The assistant chief was thankful the community maintained its support of the Amboy-based district.
“We understand how big an ask it is to have people increase their taxes, especially with times like they are,” Brooks said.
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