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Two school levies, one bond measure set for 2014 LWSD ballot
The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) board of directors voted at its Aug. 5 meeting to place two levies and one bond measure on the ballot in February 2014.
The two levies would replace current measures that expire at the end of 2014, while the bond would build schools to house projected enrollment growth and to replace existing aging schools.
“The funds raised from levy measures provide basic educational services for our students, needed building repairs and improvements and technology to help our students learn,” said LWSD Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce. “The bond measure funds construction of new schools and classroom space needed to accommodate our increasing student enrollment and funds the replacement/renovation of our oldest school buildings.”
According to a press release issued by LWSD, the overall tax rate with the replacement levies and the new bond measure would be $4.73 per $1,000 of assessed value. The increase for the average valued home in the district would be $365 per year or $30 per month.
THE COST TO RUN THE DISTRICT
The first levy, the Educational Programs & Operations Levy, would cost $6.3 million and run from 2015-18.
“It pays for a lot of general items,” said LWSD communication director Kathryn Reith.
The levy would make up about 22.5 percent of the district’s general funds budget the state does not cover. Some of the expenses the levy would cover include 60 percent of the district’s transportation costs, some staff training, athletics and activities, textbooks, insurance and utilities and maintenance.
“Over the years, the state just kept cutting back and cutting back,” Reith said, explaining why the levy has come to make up more than a fifth of the district’s general budget.
She said the state Supreme Court’s decision on the McCleary case for the state to more adequately fund public schools is just going into effect and the state has already put down one payment toward schools, but it is still not enough yet.
MAINTAINING BUILDINGS AND TECHNOLOGY
The second levy, the Capital Projects Levy, would replace an expiring levy to fund both facility and technology projects.
The four-year levy totals $127.2 million with $41.6 million going toward district facilities and $85.6 million going toward technology.
Reith said some of the things this levy would fund include replacing and improving building systems such as hot water heaters and roofs, upgrading fields and playgrounds when needed and bringing buildings up to health and safety standards.
“This will really hit most buildings (throughout the district),” she said.
Reith added that newer buildings in LWSD shouldn’t need much work unless it’s an added safety feature such as inside-locking mechanisms on doors, which have been installed for the possibility of a lockdown.
The technology side of the capital projects levy will go toward improving the district’s technology infrastructure, security and antivirus capabilities and replacing equipment when needed. The levy would also go toward maintaining the infrastructure for the district’s payroll and other accounting systems. Reith pointed out that LWSD is a business with a lot of employees with salaries and benefits and they need to be able to keep track of the records accurately — especially as the district is being held accountable to taxpayers.
“The levies fund basic educational services, technology and facility repairs,” Pierce said. “If the replacement levies were not to pass, we would be unable to continue to provide our current level of educational services for our students.”
The bond measure that will be put on the ballot is a 20-year bond for $755 million and would go toward building new schools needed to accommodate growth throughout the district, which officials project to be by about 4,200 students over the next four years. The bond would also go toward modernizing existing schools.
If approved, the bond would enable LWSD to build new schools and space for students over the next eight years.
“If the bond were not to pass, our oldest buildings would not be modernized and we would need to determine how to accommodate our growing student population - projected to increase by over 4,000 students in the next eight years – without any new school buildings or additions to buildings,” Pierce said.
Reith said the new schools include three elementary schools — two of which will probably be in or near Redmond. She said one would be in Redmond Ridge East to accommodate the growth in that area and the second Redmond-area elementary school would be on a piece of district-owned property in North Redmond at 172nd Avenue Northeast and Northeast 122nd Street as there is growth in those neighborhoods. The neighborhood of the third elementary school is still undetermined, Reith said.
The bond would also pay for a middle school, which would probably be in Redmond, as well.
In addition, Reith said the bond would bring an international-focused high school (similar to International Community School in Kirkland) to the east side of the district and a STEM-focused high school (similar to STEM School in Redmond) to the west side of the district. These two schools would be choice schools and pull students from throughout the district.