School board approves $259 million bond
EVERETT - The Everett School District will be asking voters to pass a $259 million bond this February for a new high school and a package of other improvements.
The Everett School Board approved issuing the ballot request 4-0 last week. Board member Jessica Olson was absent.
The eight-year bond will be on the Feb. 11 ballot.
North Middle School and Woodside Elementary School would be completely remodeled if the bond package passes. Cascade and Jackson high schools would get synthetic turf athletic fields for $2 million. Cascade also would get a new, modern science building.
The bond also would pay for building a new elementary school in the fast-growing south end of the district.
Woodside’s Principal Betty Cobbs told the board not to hesitate.
“I wanted to let you know there’s wide support for you in moving forward with this bond issue in the Woodside community,” Cobbs said.
Her Bothell-area school is at overcapacity. Woodside has more than 700 students and has to hold five separate lunch hours to fit everyone into the 250-student cafeteria, Cobbs said.
The district’s property tax rate would not increase over what it taxes now if the bond passes. The district levies an average of $3 per $1,000 in assessed property value for its range of bonds, making the bill $600 a year for a $200,000 house.
The new high school would top out at $89 million in 2018 dollars and would ease overcrowding at Cascade and Jackson high schools. The new school would initially fit about 750 students, half the size of a regular high school, and be expandable to 1,500 students. It would be located either on new ground off 180th Street SE near Mill Creek or at the site of Gateway Middle School.
The bond would pay for $21 million in technology upgrades, including a district plan to dispatch thousands of either tablets or computers into classrooms.
Some of the bond’s other driving factors are enrollment, the additions of full-day kindergarten and reductions in class sizes for grades K-3.
Voters approved the district’s last bond in 2006 when the district asked for $199 million. The district’s new $23 million administration building, which was not in the bond package, was criticized among a vocal group of parents who say it was a misuse of money.
The board’s vote happened at the new administration building last week. School leaders said the building has been a need dating back to the 1980s.
School board members said the district is taking a balanced approach with the bond package.
Not increasing the tax rate is “a balanced approach in an economy that’s gone through a lot of turmoil,” board member Ed Petersen said.
Board president Jeff Russell said the technology upgrades and Cascade science building modernization has “STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) appeal” to voters.
Board member Pam LeSesne supported the upgrades in the south end as an area the district will have to concentrate resources.
“I believe the public will see over the time we spent, they’ll see that we put a lot of time and a lot of thoughtful effort into this,” LeSesne said.
The district can tell naysayers the bond went through a vigorous public process, said John Dickson, a member of the district’s fiscal advisory committee.
The district held at least four public outreach meetings to shape the bond package over this year.
The district also plans to ask voters to continue an expiring four-year education levy in the same February election. Levies are for classrooms; bonds are for construction.
The levy would tax an average of about $3.55 per $1,000 in assessed home value during the levy’s four-year term. The annual rate changes each year.
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