Voters strongly reject Enumclaw School District bond measure

While ballots are still being counted, nearly 75% so far did not approve the $253 million bond.

Editor’s note: This article is an updated version of the one posted online on Feb. 14.

If the Enumclaw School District was hoping for a sweet Valentine’s Day with its registered voters, then it was sorely disappointed when initial results from the special election came in last night.

In short, voters roundly rejected a $253 million bond measure meant to build two new elementary schools, a new performing arts center, and a new sports stadium.

On social media, many people voiced myriad concerns over high taxes, alleged money mismanagement, how developers like Black Diamond’s Ten Trails should be paying more, how the performing arts center and sports stadium were not necessary, and more.

“Please have pity on those of us taxpayers that have to pay the bill and vote no!” Laura Bradley commented on a Facebook threat about the bond.

“All the developers making boatloads of money in Enumclaw should be paying a percentage to the community for these improvements,” wrote Evelyn Wood.

“How is [the performing arts center] a necessity? Im a believer that education is a right but that doesn’t extend to sports, performing arts or extracurricular activities. Can I get a bond for my kids horse riding lessons or youth hockey?” Laszlo Kelloes commented.

When results were posted shortly after 8 p.m. on Feb. 14, more than 75% of ballots counted that day rejected the bond measure.

Not much changed by the Friday, Feb. 17 update, and the current split remains at 75.22% no and 24.78% yes.

ESD has more than 21,000 registered voters in its district. By last Friday, 9,470 ballots were counted.

About 40% of voters participated in the last bond election in 2015, which passed by only four votes. If history is any indicator, that means with 44% of voters having cast a ballot as of last Friday, it’s impossible for the results to flip by the time the election is certified.

“The Enumclaw School District would like to extend our gratitude to voters for taking the time to cast their votes and let their voices be heard,” Jessica McCartney, ESD’s Director of Communications, said in an email interview after the initial election results were posted. “…the district has gained a more accurate understanding of community needs, based on the feedback we have received and these initial results. The school board will use this data to determine the next steps to best serve our students, families, and community.”

It’s unknown at this time how the Enumclaw School District Board of Directors will proceed, though past conversations at meetings indicate the board might place a simplified (and more importantly, less expensive) bond measure on a future ballot.

When a bond measure was being discussed, three options were presented to the public — scenario one was just to build two new elementary schools and perform upgrades to other district buildings; scenario two added tearing down the current high school auditorium and building a new performing arts center; and scenario three added a new sports stadium.

Public opinion gathered by the district indicated scenario three was the most popular, but only roughly 765 people’s opinions were gathered, a very small percentage of the district population overall.

Historically, most ESD bond measures are not approved by voters.

Out of the 11 bonds ESD has put out over the last three decades, only three were approved — one in 1988 for $7.5 million (nearly 72% approval); another in 1997 for $31 million (just over 61%); and the third in 2015, which was for $68.5 million.