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Updated: Nooksack Valley levy now likely to pass; Blaine, Lynden bonds failing

Bonds needed a supermajority of 60% to pass in special election

Bright pink ballots placed on top of each other.
Whatcom Country released the second count of ballots for the February special election on Wednesday, Feb. 14. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Charlotte Alden and Hailey Hoffman Staff Reporters

Lynden will likely not get a new high school, following initial results in the Tuesday, Feb. 13 Whatcom County special election. A Thursday ballot count did little to change the trajectory of bond measures put to voters by Lynden and Blaine school districts that must surpass the needed 60% approval margin.

All local school levies are now poised to pass, with Thursday ballot numbers pushing the Nooksack Valley School District levy closer to approval. That levy measure now has 50.91% votes in favor, up from 50.15% in favor Wednesday night.

In this election, voters cast ballots on whether to renew or institute school levies, bonds, fire district levies and parks district levies across the county. Here are the current results after the third ballot drop Thursday evening. The next ballot drop won’t be until February 22, the day before the election is certified.

Amy Grasher, chief deputy auditor in the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office, said on Thursday that most ballots have now been counted.

Lynden School District 

Lynden’s bond to rebuild its high school and update its elementary and middle schools appears headed to failure. As of Thursday night, only 50.98% of people have voted in favor of the bond. The bond requires a supermajority of 60% in favor to pass.

Gallery: Inside Lynden’s outdated 43-year-old high school

Superintendent David VanderYacht said on Tuesday night that he is “a little disappointed” by the results of the vote. He voiced his commitment to ensure a “safe and quality learning environment” is provided to the students. 

“My resolve is to continue to work with the community to get a physical school that represents the value we place in our students,” he said.

He said it is too soon to tell if they will rerun the bond this year. 


VanderYacht said he’s thankful for the support of the educational programs and operations levy, which currently sits with 57.14% approval and will likely pass. Levies only need a simple majority (more than 50%) to pass.

Blaine School District 

While Blaine’s replacement levy for educational programs and operations seems poised to pass with 58.19% votes in favor as of Thursday night, the district’s bond to renovate the middle school and make updates across the district will likely fail. As of Thursday night, 54.81% of people voted in favor of the bond, which needs a supermajority of 60% to pass. 

“Certainly, we are appreciative of our voters supporting the levy, as we know that was the one essential to our operations,” Blaine Superintendent Christopher Granger said Tuesday night. 

“We always know the 60% supermajority is a hurdle,” Granger said of the bond. Granger said the district continues to advocate at the state level to lower the percentage needed to pass a bond. According to the state superintendent, bonds across the state have only passed 45% of the time in the last decade. 

Granger said the district will need to reevaluate the proposition and adjust based on community feedback. 

“We’re encouraged by the positive turnout and the votes for yes,” Granger said. “Fifty-five percent is not a bad percentage. It makes me feel like we’re close, maybe we just need to refine a few things.” 

Granger said he didn’t know yet when they’ll next try to put a bond to voters; likely not in April, but potentially in November. 

State-wide, only 33% of bonds put to voters in this special election are currently passing, according to a Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction press release Wednesday morning. However, 86% of those bonds hold a simple majority so far.

Nooksack Valley School District 

Nooksack Valley School District’s replacement levy to fund education programs and operations seems more likely to pass after Thursday night’s ballot drop brought the votes in favor up to 50.91%. Superintendent Matt Galley said on Thursday afternoon the district is “cautiously optimistic” the number will hold.

The levy funds school safety, support staff, athletics, facilities maintenance and more, according to the district’s website.

Galley said the big increase in taxes — not school taxes, but property taxes and others — in the last four years in the school district likely resulted in a closer-than-expected vote. He said he plans to use the results of this election to reach out to local legislators and show them how taxpayers, particularly in rural districts, are “getting fed up” with high taxes.

“It could have massively disrupted a school district’s ability to do great things for kids and not because people are mad at the school, but because people are mad at taxes in general,” he said. There was no coordinated campaign or statement in the voter’s guide against the levy, and Galley said his discussions with people about the levy had been largely positive.

Galley said the closeness of this vote has also shown the district that they need to “more proactively” communicate with the entire community on how they’re using their tax dollars.

“I think we can do a better job of that and that’s on us, that’s not on them,” he said. “We’re going to work on this for the next four years. We want to be totally accountable and really spend their hard-earned tax dollars wisely.”

Bellingham Public Schools 

Both Bellingham Public Schools levies are likely to pass, based on ballots released on Thursday night. The district’s replacement levy for education support and operations has 65.99% votes in favor, while the district’s replacement levy for technology capital projects, has 65.52% votes in favor as of Thursday. 

Superintendent Greg Baker said the district is “so thankful” to voters and community members who worked to promote the levies, in a message to the community sent Tuesday night.  

“We would not be where we are tonight without the hard work and dedication of literally thousands of our neighbors and friends,” Baker said.  

Meridian School District 

Meridian School District’s two replacement levies seem likely to pass. The district’s replacement levy for educational programs and operations has 55.29% votes in favor, while its replacement technology levy has 56.22% votes in favor. 

Ferndale School District 

Ferndale’s replacement levy for school programs and operations is on track to pass, four years after a similar levy failed in a special election. The proposition has 55.28% yes votes as of Thursday night. 

In a Feb. 14 press release, the school district thanked the community for the support.

“I would like to thank our voters for their support of our schools and how this vote of confidence allows us to move forward focusing on the academic achievement of students,” School Board President Kevin Erickson said in the release.

Mount Baker School District 

Mount Baker’s replacement levy to fund educational programs and operations, and its renewal capital projects levy both appear poised to pass, a likely relief for a school district plagued with recent financial issues

The educational programs levy has 59% votes in favor as of Thursday night, while the capital projects levy has 58.9% votes in favor. 

Fire Protection District 8  

Whatcom County Fire Protection District 8’s maintenance and operations tax levy is likely to pass, with 69.79% votes in favor as of Thursday night. The district serves the communities of Marietta and the Lummi Nation on Gooseberry Point.  

Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District No. 2  

The park and recreation district’s renewal tax levy is poised to pass with 68.94% of votes in favor as of Thursday night. The tax provides for development of parks, fields, classes and trails, according to the district. 

Whatcom County reported that 37.7% of 159,753 registered voters turned out, as of Thursday night numbers.

This article was updated at 9:20 a.m. Feb. 14, 2024, to include comments from the Nooksack Valley School District superintendent. The article was further updated at 12:20 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2024 to include state-wide context from the OSPI. This article was further updated at 5:20 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2024 to update ballot counts. This article was further updated at 4:35 p.m. on Feb. 15, 2024 to update ballot counts and add additional comments from school districts.

Hailey Hoffman is a CDN visual journalist; reach her at haileyhoffman@cascadiadaily.com; 360-922-3090 ext. 103.

Charlotte Alden is CDN’s general assignment/enterprise reporter; reach her at charlottealden@cascadiadaily.com; 360-922-3090 ext. 123.

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