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2018 Primary Election Ballot Measure Results

It’s that time of year again — election season! While the pundits are focused on state and national legislative races, we’re turning our attention here to local ballot measures submitted by cities, counties, and special purpose districts in Washington.

There were about 50 measures on the ballot. I’ll be posting the complete results to our Local Ballot Measure Database once the results are certified in a few weeks, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at a few issues that stood out.

EMS Levies and EMS Lid Lifts Fare Well

EMS levies fared well, as usual. Columbia County is passing its first-ever EMS levy, a permanent measure requiring 60% approval. Voters in Skagit County are also supporting a 6-year, EMS levy renewal.

It appears EMS levies in Asotin, Cheney, and Medical Lake will pass, although voters in Mukilteo have rejected a proposed EMS levy lid lift that would have allowed the city to increase its total EMS levy above the 1% annual limit. (For more information on this often confusing topic, see our page on Levy Lid Lifts.)

Editor's note: At the time of publication, the permanent EMS levy in the City of Asotin had the 60% supermajority required for passage. However, after more votes were counted in ensuing days, it fell below 60% and narrowly failed.

The recently formed South Snohomish Regional Fire Authority approved an initial EMS levy, superseding existing EMS levies for Lynnwood and Fire District No. 1. Several fire districts also received support for EMS levy lid lifts. One jurisdiction — Pierce County Fire District No. 18 — had two separate levy lid lifts on the ballot, one for its regular levy and one for the EMS levy. Interestingly, the EMS levy is running about six percent better than the regular fire district levy. As I write this, about 58% of voters favor the EMS levy while just 52% support the regular levy.

I should also note that there is new state legislation impacting EMS levies. SHB 2627, which took effect on June 7, makes several changes. In particular, EMS levies now only require a simple majority for “subsequent approvals,” rather than “uninterrupted continuations.” In addition, any newly formed regional fire authority may approve its initial 6-year or 10-year EMS levy with only a simple majority if the entire region comprising the district was subject to an EMS levy prior to the formation of the regional fire authority.

New Police/Jail Facility for Marysville

Voters in Marysville are narrowly supporting a proposed 0.1% public safety sales tax for a new police and jail building. The existing facility opened in 1986, when the city’s population was about 8,000 (compared to the current population of 67,000). City officials hopes this is the first step toward creating a new downtown city center.

Mixed Results for Excess Levies

Excess levies can sometimes be challenging for local governments, since they require a 60% supermajority (plus minimum turnout/validation requirements) and must go to the voters every year.

Several cities placed excess levies on the ballot for a variety of purposes, including library funding in Castle Rock and police funding in Elma, both of which are passing.

But in Farmington, voters are rejecting two excess levies for the current expense fund and street maintenance. Voters have rejected several similar levies in Farmington in recent years, most recently in last year’s general election.

Other Interesting Measures

I don’t have the space to write about every single ballot measure, but below are a few more I found interesting:

  • It appears King County will renew its fingerprint-identification system levy for the fifth time since it was first imposed in 1986.
  • Voters in Benton County Fire District No. 4, which serves the West Richland area, are approving a bond measure for a new fire station in response to population growth.
  • In Pend Oreille Fire District No. 2, voters are narrowly rejecting a proposal to increase the number of fire commissioners from 3 to 5.
  • The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District is easily passing a park district levy renewal, while in Selah, a similar measure to build a new pool is falling just short of the required 60% supermajority.
  • Voters in Thurston County Fire District No. 5 overwhelmingly support its proposed merger into Fire District No. 5. The two departments had been operating jointly for the past 10 years.
  • In Ocean Shores, voters are narrowly supporting a 0.2% transportation benefit district sales tax for road purposes. This transportation funding source has been quite popular, and successful, in recent years.

Anything Else?

If you have questions about ballot measures or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772.

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.

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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.