PACIFIC COUNTY — Voters rejected a $96.2 million bond proposed by the Ocean Beach School District this week.
Several hundred ballots remain to be tallied since Tuesday night’s election, but the bond needed a supermajority of 60% to pass. With the recent count as of Thursday sitting at only 22.7% in favor of the bond and 77.2% percent opposed, Amy Huntley, superintendent for the Ocean Beach School District, says the outcome is clear. The voters have spoken.
“Passing this bond was a real long shot,” she told KMUN. “It’s expensive. It’s the big ticket. That makes everyone tense.”
If passed, the bond would have funded a number of construction projects at the school district. One of the larger projects would have been the construction of a new tsunami-safe k through 5 elementary school in Ilwaco. This would have lead to the closure of Long Beach Elementary and Ocean Park Elementary as schools — a sticking point for some voters.
Washington lags behind other West Coast states in retrofitting public school buildings to withstand earthquakes and, on the coast, to confront the possibility of tsunamis.
Huntley had provided her own perspective during earlier discussions about the bond about the need to have a safe place for children if disaster strikes. With the failure of the current bond to provide some of these key upgrades, she says the district will now likely look at money the state has allocated for these types of improvements.
The legislature passed a supplemental state construction budget earlier this year that includes 100 million dollars for earthquake and tsunami safety upgrades. The money will go to the most vulnerable schools in the state.
It isn’t clear yet what could be available to the Ocean Beach School District.
Huntley and the school board plan to discuss the bond effort in greater depth in the coming weeks and what to do next.
There is a possibility they could come back with a modified request for voters.
“As I was going out and talking to people during the campaign, I was very clear the last step of this is the voters speak,” Huntley said. “And they’ve spoken, right? So we’ll look at the comments, the concerns. Really there were a lot of people that didn’t make it personal, didn’t make it a conspiracy issue, who bring up very good points.”
The district is aware of concerns and feedback that it may not have heard otherwise, Huntley said.