Bond proposals from two Pierce County school districts failed to muster approval from voters in early election returns Tuesday night.
Unlike many other tax measures, school bonds require a 60-percent supermajority to pass. In Bethel, more than half of voters approved of the bond, but support didn’t reach the 60-percent mark, early returns showed. In Eatonville, the “yes” votes fell short of even a simple majority Tuesday.
Bethel Superintendent Tom Seigel said the supermajority requirement dates from the 1940s, and he has long campaigned for the Legislature to lift it.
“Times have changed, but the law means districts like ours will continue to have kids in crowded conditions,” Seigel said, noting that the district gained 900 students in the past three years.
Eatonville Superintendent Krestin Bahr said officials in her district worked hard to assemble a bond package that reflected district needs.
“We wanted to bring the conversation to the community, and we will continue having that conversation,” she said.
This was the second time this year that Bethel voters were asked to approve a $236.7 million bond measure. It would have paid for a long list of improvements, including partial replacement and modernization of the 64-year-old Bethel High School, a new elementary school and an aquatic center that would be used by students and the community.
The measure had failed to gather the required 60 percent approval in a February election. But it came close enough — with 57.4 percent approval — that district officials decided to try again. The district won’t be able to ask for another bond this year.
The Eatonville School District was asking for a bond measure for the first time since 2006.
The nearly $19.5 million Eatonville measure would have paid to upgrade athletic fields at Eatonville High School and Eatonville Middle School, as well as a new grandstand at the high school.
It also would have paid for new technology, new spaces for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, and safety measures such as better radios for bus drivers who transport students in remote areas of the district.
Bahr acknowledged that it’s harder to muster voter support for a broad-ranging list of projects like Eatonville’s than for a new school building.