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Published: Monday, September 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Stanwood schools seek $29M building, tech levy

With a bond nearly paid off, the district is seeking a $29 million levy for improvements at its schools.

STANWOOD -- Voters in the Stanwood-Camano School District are being asked on the Nov. 5 ballot to approve a replacement tax levy of nearly $29 million.
The levy would support repairs to school buildings and upgrade computer technology throughout the district. Portioned out over five years, the levy tax rate would be about $1.44 on each $1,000 of assessed property value during the first four years and 15 cents per $1,000 in its final year.
The district's outstanding bond debt is set to be paid off in December. The proposed capital levy would replace the expiring tax currently collected for that bond debt. The proposed tax rate is expected to be less than the current rate collected by the school district, officials said.
If the facilities and technology levy passes, a property owner with a house worth $350,000 would pay about $504 a year for four years and about $52.50 for the fifth year of the levy.
About 59 percent of the tax levy funds would be used for long-term repairs and security measures to protect students and staff, Superintendent Jean Shumate said.
The money would be used for security systems, new roofs, windows, siding, flooring, heating, lighting, ventilation and parking lot paving.
A facilities advisory committee has critiqued all of the district's property, finance director Gary Platt said. Among those touring the school buildings was co-chairman of the citizen group supporting the levy, Marcus Bresko.
"It was an eye-opener for me," Bresko said. "It doesn't do a community any good if its schools are in disrepair. Schools are a vital aspect of the future of any community. I want our schools to have modernization that lasts for decades."
Bresko has heard of no formal opposition to the levy, though many retired people have concerns about taxes, he said. Platt noted that anyone age 61 and older with a combined household income of $35,000 or less is exempt from the school levy. More information about this is available from the county assessor.
About 41 percent of the funding from the levy would go to upgrade all the computer technology in the district. Most of it is obsolete and worn out, said teacher Kevin Plambeck, who is in charge of technology in the schools.
"When we get to the end of this proposed five-year levy, we will have updated all our software, replaced each computer in the district and improved student access to all available technology," Plambeck said. "All of our students now are what we call 'digital natives.' They grew up on technology and they need current technology to move ahead."
Bresko said he and all the parents he knows want this situation remedied as soon as possible.
Plambeck mentioned that the computers donated to Twin City Elementary this past school year will remain in use there and be integrated into the new systems. At Twin City, many students from low-income families do not have computers at home, and most of the computers at the school were outdated or did not work. A fundraising effort in the spring resulted in the purchase of more than 75 new computers for the school.
Shumate is optimistic about the levy passing, she said. Ballots are to be mailed out in mid-October.
"The levy measure is not a tax increase," Shumate said. "The voters told us in 2006 that they were not interested in tax increases," Shumate said. "We waited until our debt was paid down. Voters also asked us to run the levy on a general election to save costs, and we did that."
To learn more about the levy, go to districtweb.stanwood.wednet.edu.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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