This article as published Feb. 26 stated teachers may face layoffs if a new bond does not pass before April. This is incorrect. Teachers are not paid for with bond dollars but with levy dollars. Two district officials warned at the meeting that a failed bond measure may result in layoffs, but the district was talking about non-teaching staff such as within the IT technology department, which does have some employees paid for with bond dollars. The Tribune regrets the error.
Everett likely to try bond issue again
EVERETT - The Everett School Board appears to be ramping up plans to put out a new bond in April.
The board set an intense meeting schedule discussing options for a new bond before next week’s Friday, March 7 deadline to get on the April ballot. The board started meeting last week when it was clear the Everett School District’s $259 million February bond measure wouldn’t pass.
Some items remain undecided as of last week, though, including how big of a bond the district would put out, and confirming the bond measure would go on the April ballot versus August or November. The board also is strategizing how to market the new bond.
The sluggish economy and part of the public’s resentful opposition to the district’s new administration building are “obstacles that still exist” for any bond measure, said board member Caroline Mason, a marketing professional. “I’ve given a lot of thought into this I’m not sure how to get around those obstacles. If you go (out with a bond in April), I’m not sure you’ll get additional votes to overcome these obstacles.”
The February bond fell short of its needed 60 percent voter threshold with almost 59 percent of the vote. A district maintenance and operations levy passed with almost 61 percent of the vote.
But if the board puts the bond measure out after April, the district believes it will have to send teachers layoff notices, district officials said last week. The deadline for those “reduction in force” announcements is May 15.(please see correction above)
Waiting after April also poses a dilemma for marketing the bond. This election season, the district emphasized that residents’ tax rates would stay at $6.55 per $1,000 in assessed property values if both the levy and February bond passed. The tax rate would fall to $5.95 per $1,000 in assessed property value if the district tried issuing a voter-approved bond measure after this summer.
The tax rate built into school bonds is comprised of both spending for new construction and also paying off debt from prior long-term bonds.
People are most sensitive to tax increases considering a bond, Mason said.
This time, people thought the bond was a tax increase, new board member Traci Mitchell said.
Even district financial officer Jeff Moore’s friends were confused that the bond would increase taxes, Moore said. Part of the marketing efforts will have to include educating the public about the new administration building, school board president Pam LeSesne said.
The district has had to fight conjecture that the 2006 bond helped pay for the district’s new $23 million administration building.
District Superintendent Gary Cohn didn’t want to speculate why the bond failed last week. He said he’d need more data.
The need for a 2014 bond is still present, district officials emphasize.
The district intended to allocate the bond money to build a new high school, completely renovate North Middle and Woodside Elementary schools, beef up school security and pay for $20 million worth of new technology.
The new high school would alleviate overcrowding at Cascade and Jackson high schools, and the elementary school improvements would get kids out of trailers built into classrooms at Woodside Elementary.
The bond had passing rates above 60 percent in the south end of the Everett School District, which extends down to Mill Creek, according to elections data provided by the district. The bond failed in north and central Everett, according to elections data.
The Mill Creek area would be poised to get a new high school and new elementary school, as well as a complete refurbishment of Woodside Elementary.
“Those individuals in those neighborhoods, they ‘get it’,” LeSesne said.
The last board meeting before the March 7 ballot deadline on crunching the bond is scheduled for Wednesday, March 5.
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