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$695 Million Seattle Bond Measure Narrowly Loses

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Ten days after Seattle voters went to the polls, local election officials last week were prepared to announce that absentee-ballot results were enough to narrowly turn back a $695 million school-bond issue.

Final unofficial results showed that the bond measure was approved by 58.4 percent of the voters, just shy of the 60 percent necessary for passage.

The lengthy interim between voting on Sept. 15 and last week's final tally forced the Seattle school board to place an identical bond measure on the city's November ballot.

Prior to the absentee votes, the measure held a slim 60.3 percent approval rate.

School district officials said last week that they were encouraged about the prospects for passage in November.

"This is a good margin regardless,'' said Randy Carmical, a spokesman for the district. "Any politician would be pleased with 59 percent.''

Organizers of the bond campaign acknowledged that they may have started their effort too late to win over enough voters, adding that with a larger volunteer corps and more familiarity with the issue, the measure should win the necessary number of votes in November.

Widespread Deficiencies

In proposing one of the nation's largest school-district bond issues, Seattle officials claimed that the funds are necessary to shore up widespread deficiencies in school facilities.

Bond proponents claimed that for more than two decades before 1984, when the district's last bond issue won approval, the school's construction program was inactive. Tight budgets in the years since have hampered new construction, according to district officials.

District administrators said more than one-third of the system's schools are more than 60 years old and many more have significant heating, electrical, and ventilation problems. Many classrooms are so old they can not accommodate cutting-edge technology and equipment, they noted.

Beyond the educational upgrades, supporters of the referendum, which faced little organized opposition, pointed to at least 1,000 new construction jobs that would result annually from the massive building program, which would be spread over seven years.

The bond measure, which would cause residential property taxes to rise by $.50 per $1,000 of valuation, is envisioned as the first step in a strategy recommended by a local task force aimed at rebuilding or renovating 52 buildings, about half of the 45,000-student district's total.

Officials said that the final step would require a similar bond measure in about 10 years.

School officials said the defeat of the measure could delay some parts of the master plan, but aside from the potential for increases in interest rates, the time between defeat in September and the hoped-for approval in November should not be a hindrance.

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