The question of who will fill the last of the five school board seats up for election this fall in the South Washington County School District is expected to be decided next week.

Molly Lutz, a middle-school PTO president who had finished just five votes out of a tie for the final four-year seat on the Nov. 5 ballot, exercised her right this week to seek a free recount.

The recount will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Washington County Government Center.

Lutz finished just behind Sharon Van Leer, a multicultural affairs specialist, in a field that included 17 candidates. Fourteen were competing for four four-year seats; three sought a two-year term.

Van Leer and Lutz were among 11 candidates to speak at an Oct. 22 candidates forum, and were united in citing transportation decisions as points of concern.

Lutz said that the district's decision to lengthen bus service boundaries was an example of not listening to residents. Winning the community's trust was an "emerging issue," she said. Van Leer found fault with both the bus service decision and the district's new assigned seating policy for school bus riders.

The top vote-getter among four-year candidates was challenger Katie Schwartz, a full-time student and stay-at-home mom who said the board needed new faces and new ideas. Incumbents Tracy Brunnette and Katy McElwee-Stevens captured four-year seats and incumbent Laurie Johnson won the two-year term.

Voters also were asked to decide three school spending questions. Proposals to renew existing levies and to provide an additional $6.9 million in annual operating funds were approved. But the third question -- a proposal to dedicate $8 million toward the purchase of land for future building needs -- was narrowly defeated, with 5,076 votes for and 5,045 against, a 31-vote margin.

Barbara Brown, a district spokeswoman, said that district residents could petition for a recount on the ballot question. But no one had come forward as of earlier this week.