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Ballot Measure Results from the 2015 Primary Election

Ballot Measure Results from the 2015 Primary Election

It may be an off-year election, but there is plenty of action at the local level in Washington State. Yesterday’s primary included 50 local ballot measures, ranging from the usual bonds and levies to metropolitan park districts and city charter amendments. I’ll be updating MRSC’s Local Ballot Measure Database in a couple weeks with the final, certified results, but in the meantime we already know the fates of most of the measures. So what made the cut and what didn’t?

Fire Districts Winning Big

Measures submitted by fire districts accounted for half of all the measures on local ballots this election, and fared even better than usual. At this time, every measure submitted by a fire district is passing, most by a large margin. These propositions primarily include excess levies, levy lid lifts, and emergency medical service levies.
Voters in Shoreline approved $9.5 million in bonds for the fire department, as well as fire benefit charges, while King County Fire Protection District No. 50 in Skykomish received approval for $690,000 in bonds. In addition, voters within the North County Regional Fire Authority in Snohomish County approved a plan amendment that would allow the district to annex adjacent fire protection districts.

Metropolitan Park Districts Voted Down

Metropolitan park districts weren’t as fortunate: proposed districts in Sequim and Snohomish fell well short of the required 50% majority. Voters in Sequim rejected a related park levy earlier this year, so it now appears that the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center will close. Most proposed MPDs, which can levy property taxes without voter approval once established, have failed in recent years, including those proposed in Skamania County (2014), Bonney Lake (2013), and Vancouver (2012). According to MRSC’s Local Ballot Measure Database, Seattle (2014) is the only jurisdiction to approve a new MPD in the last five years.

Library Votes Failing, District Dissolved

Voters within the Spokane Valley Library Capital Facility Area rejected $22 million in bonds to pay for new and renovated libraries. Voters approved the formation of the capital facility area in 2014, but this is the second time they have rejected a bond measure. Since the initial resolution only authorized two ballot measures, the capital facility area is now dissolved.

A library excess levy in Castle Rock is too close to call, but falling short of the 60% threshold.

Spokane City Charter Amendments Pass

Voters in Spokane approved two amendments to the city charter. The first establishes an independent board to set the mayor’s salary. Previously, the charter required the mayor to be paid the same salary as the highest-paid city employee, not including the city manager, which created controversy after the 2015 budget included a pay raise. The second adds qualifications, salary, and vacancy provisions for municipal court judges, which are currently addressed in the municipal code but not in the charter.

 Other Notable Results

  • Two levy lid lifts in Redmond – for transportation and parks – failed.
  • Most excess levies are passing, including park, cemetery, transportation, and water-sewer measures.
  • An excess levy in the City of Garfield, which would finance street improvements and repair, is failing.
  • An excess levy in Elma, which would partially fund the police department, is passing. Elma’s police budget hadn’t increased in almost 20 years, and the city has been transferring money from other departments to pay for increased police costs.
  • In an advisory vote, voters opposed a new $230 million Pierce County general services building. This advisory vote will be followed by a legally-binding referendum on the subject in November.

Image courtesy of Joe Kunzler.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Steve Hawley

About Steve Hawley

Steve joined MRSC in July 2014 and is responsible for writing, editing, and conducting research for many of MRSC’s website resources, with a particular focus on local government finance, budgeting, ballot measures, and procurement. He has a broad communications and public policy background with over a decade of local government and nonprofit experience.