Bainbridge school bond still short with 59.66 percent approval | UPDATED

Two days after voting ended in the May 19 special election, Bainbridge School District’s $42 million capital bond approval is failing by a hairsbreadth.

With 9,502 votes counted Thursday afternoon, the bond had been approved by 59.66 percent of voters, just shy of the 60 percent it needed for approval, according to the Kitsap County Auditor’s office.

“This is the nail-biter of all nail-biters,” Bainbridge School District Capital Projects Director Tamela VanWinkle said.

It could be a sleepless holiday weekend for Van Winkle and other school administrators. The auditor’s next update will be Tuesday, May 26. The election will be certified June 3.

More ballots may trickle in through the mail. Another 125 ballots from Bainbridge have been contested or are under review, and could still be accepted.

The capital bond would pay for the reconstruction of Wilkes Elementary, along with $10 million in capital work across the district.

When initial special election results were released Tuesday evening, the measure was being approved by 57.7 percent of voters. That number crept gradually higher over the next two days.

According to county Elections Supervisor Dolores Gilmore, Kitsap County has no provision for an automatic recount in local elections, but a recount can be requested. The requesting party would have to pay $0.25 per-ballot for a hand recount; $0.15 per ballot for a machine recount.

Clif McKenzie, who co-chaired the school bond campaign, said his committee will have to take a hard look at the final ballot count, and decide whether a recount makes sense.

McKenzie said he believes the economy has been the key factor behind the lackluster support for the bond.

Three years ago Bainbridge School District passed both a $45 million capital bond and a $6.1 million tech levy in a special election. The capital bond, which was used to rebuild the high school’s 200 Building, among other projects, passed with 70 percent approval.

While the Wilkes proposal was more complex, McKenzie said the most logical explanation of the more than 10 percent discrepancy between the two results is the economy.

Supt. Faith Chapel said this year’s bond required greater explanation for voters.

“Previous bond measures in the district have been about growth,” Chapel said. “When you start talking about replacement of schools, it’s a much more complicated conversation.”

School Board President Mary Curtis said that if the bond fails, the board will have to go to work on a new proposal.

“The question of repairing these schools isn’t a matter of if, but when,” Curtis said Tuesday. “So if it doesn’t pass this time, we’ll just have to go back to the drawing board.”

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