The Culver School District appeared to pull out the narrowest of victories in its fourth bond campaign since 2006, holding a lead of just three votes Tuesday night.
Culver Superintendent Stefanie Garber said the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office told her it won’t know whether the bond passed until Nov. 15. Some voters failed to sign their ballots properly and their votes will have to be verified, she said, while any ballots dropped off at a drop site outside Jefferson County could take a day or two to arrive at the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office.
“Oh my gosh, it’s the most gut-wrenching, just dragging it out,” Garber said.
Voters have turned down three bond measures to upgrade Culver schools since 2006, though the district won 47 percent in its most recent campaign in May.
District residents were asked to approve an $8.8 million bond package to fund improvements to several school buildings, including upgrades to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, electrical systems and security measures. Classrooms would be replaced or added at the district’s elementary, middle and high school, and all three buildings would be brought into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The margin in the Culver election is just over one-fifth of 1 percent of the total votes cast — Oregon law calls for an automatic recount when the margin is less than that.
Garber said she and others who had gathered to watch the election returns Tuesday decided to have their celebratory glasses of champagne after hearing the last results of the evening, even if the final outcome will remain in doubt for more than a week.
“This is going to be nerve-wracking, but maybe sweeter when it’s a definitive yes, yes, yes for sure,” she said.
Meanwhile, an operations levy for the Jefferson County jail won a convincing victory Tuesday night.
Sheriff Jim Adkins said he’s had a busy past two months, appearing before various groups in every community in the county to campaign for the levy. Having a strong majority vote for the levy is a satisfying end to the process, he said.
“It feels pretty good. I’m pretty excited about the numbers,” Adkins said.
The levy will assess a countywide tax rate of $1.24 per $1,000 assessed property value for the next five years. The levy will replace a current levy of 99 cents per $1,000 assessed property value that is due to expire in June. However, due to the expiration of the bond measure voters approved to build the jail, Jefferson County residents will see their jail-related property tax bills drop.
The expiring bond made this election the best chance to win voters over, Adkins said — by this time next year, the same request would represent a true tax increase for county residents.
Adkins said he will continue to seek out additional revenue by finding “new customers” to fill the excess beds at the jail, possibly through the continuation of an arrangement that has Crook County renting beds from Jefferson County, and possibly through a new relationship with federal law enforcement. He said the levy approval will allow him to maintain current staffing.
“I’d like to make sure everyone knows we’re not going to be hiring a bunch of new people or giving people a bunch of big raises,” Adkins said.