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"Schools, parks go back to voters"

"The percentage of yes votes for both the South Whidbey School District's levy and the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District's bond fell throughout the past week, spelling out narrow losses for both measures. Both needed 60 percent support to pass. Here are the final numbers:School levy: 3,213 yes; 2,183 no -- 59.54 percent yesParks bond: 3,123 yes; 2,265 no -- 57.96 percent yesIt came right down to the wire, but when the last few hundred votes from the Feb. 29 election were counted, both the South Whidbey schools levy and the South Whidbey parks bond failed at the ballot box.On Wednesday it became almost statistically impossible for a $1.54 per $1,000 valuation school levy to pass, as the yes vote slipped from 60.14 percent Monday to 59.54 percent by Friday morning.The measure needed 60-percent approval to pass. According to the Island County Auditor's Office, the election numbers were still unofficial at press time, but were the numbers that were to be sent to the canvasing board for certification late Friday.The school levy was but one of two tax measures which voters put down. A $1.45 million bond issue put on the ballot by the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District also failed, coming up 2.04 percent short of the 60 percent needed.The South Whidbey School Board apparently saw the writing on the wall. On Wednesday morning, the board voted unanimously to put the levy on a new ballot on April 25, even though board members were not sure the issue was dead. The board made its request for a new election contingent on the final vote count. Superintendent Lisa Bjork supported that strategy.We'll wait to debrief the dead body until we're sure it is, Bjork said.That evening, the parks district commissioners took the same direction with their bond, voting to put it too on the April 25 ballot. Commissioner Curt Gordon said the upcoming bond issue should be more attractive to voters because it will be for $167,500 less than the one that appeared on the Feb. 29 ballot. That lower amount is the district's share of a 40-acre land purchase earlier this year. Instead of getting a payback through the bond, the district will make payments over the next seven years out of its maintenance and operations budget.Dean Hatt, the co-chair of the school levy committee, said Thursday that the committee will work over the next month to bring out yes voters who did not make it to the polls. Even though the levy failed, Hatt said he was encouraged by the fact that more people voted for this levy than almost any other in the past. He said he knows that there are even more voters out there who want to do the same.There's still a lot of people who would've voted yes, Hatt said.Sinclair said a special election for South Whidbey will cost about $20,000. If the school district and parks district run their issues together, they would probably split the cost down the middle, she said."

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