Early ballot tallies Tuesday night indicated school bond measures in Tacoma and Puyallup were headed in different directions.
The $500 million Tacoma measure, which registered more than 69 percent voter approval in the first ballot count by election officials, appeared headed for victory. But Puyallup’s $279.6 million proposal was falling short of the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass, with just under 55 percent approval.
The Tacoma measure was still more than 1,200 ballots short of the required voter turnout threshold on Tuesday night, but Superintendent Carla Santorno said she was confident those ballots would roll in today, when ballots mailed on election day should begin arriving at the Pierce County Elections Center.
“I am excited,” Santorno said Tuesday. She said the key to the district’s apparent success was a well-run campaign, along with restored public confidence in Tacoma Public Schools.
“I think we have done some good work with our community,” Santorno said. “We have let them know we want to be partners.”
Puyallup school leaders said Tuesday night that they will consider next steps and decide whether to rerun a bond election this spring.
“Fifty-five percent of those who chose to vote understood the need and urgency to move kids from portables into permanent housing,” said Superintendent Tim Yeomans.
In Tacoma, the bond campaign gathered the support of parent, youth, business, education, labor and civic organizations. Campaign spokesman Eric Wilson said 317 volunteers worked 875 phone bank shifts and made more than 23,000 phone calls.
Former Tacoma schools administrator and campaign co-chairman Dan Barkley said he believes many of the “Yes” votes came from Tacomans who no longer have children in school.
“I think the citizens of Tacoma have a deep commitment to public education in our community,” he added.
Tacoma voters have not approved a major school construction bond measure since 2001. The last time Puyallup voters approved a bond proposal for school construction was in 2004.
Tacoma’s bond measure would pay for 14 new or remodeled schools and smaller projects at nearly all of the 54 campuses throughout the district.
Puyallup sought voter backing for added capacity at three high schools, a new elementary school in the growing southwest part of the district and replacement or expansion of three other elementary schools. The suburban district also said the bond would eliminate the need for roughly a third of the 220 portable classrooms, where about 20 percent of Puyallup’s students spend at least some of each school day.
Passage of the Tacoma bond would create a temporary seven-year reduction in property taxes. That’s because the district plans to eliminate roughly $70 million in taxes voters approved in 2010 to pay for new schools and refinance the costs of two projects approved then – Washington-Hoyt Elementary School and Hunt Middle School – with long-term debt through the new bond.
Tacoma estimates that the bond would cost the average Tacoma homeowner, based on assessed valuation of $176,420, a little more than $58 a year for the 31-year payback period.
Puyallup officials said their proposal would cost the average homeowner in their district about $148 more per year – less than initially calculated.
Tacoma’s list of major projects includes some schools that have been in line for remodeling or replacement for years. Half the schools on the major construction list were originally built in the 1920s or earlier.
The bond includes modernization at three city schools with historic register designation: Washington and McCarver elementary schools and Stewart Middle School. District officials said they plan to preserve those schools’ exterior architectural character.
In addition to new instructional wings at Tacoma’s Wilson High School, the bond would pay for a permanent campus for the Science and Math Institute.
Another ballot count is scheduled for 5 p.m. today.Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635