EVERETT — Leaders of the Everett School District are ready to put a $317 million construction bond in front of voters this summer.
On Tuesday, school board members signalled their desire to place it on the Aug. 4 primary ballot, well aware the spending measure may encounter an uneasy electorate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can’t downplay how difficult it is for families,” said board member Andrew Nicholls. “We don’t want people looking at this as an arbitrary money grab.”
Board Vice President Pam LeSesne said they must strike the right balance in their message to voters, some of whom will have lost their jobs and will be reluctant to support this.
“My biggest concern is how do we not forget the sacrifices this community has made at this time,” she said.
Similar concerns were at play in March when the Everett district withdrew its bond measure from the April 28 special election. The Lakewood, Darrington and Sultan school districts, as well as the city of Monroe, pulled their respective measures. An election that would have happened Tuesday was cancelled.
For Everett, three aging elementary schools would be torn down and replaced, and 36 new elementary classrooms would be constructed under the proposal. There is also money penciled in for renovations at each of the district’s three high schools, new playground equipment at eight elementaries and replacement of the synthetic turf and track at Memorial Stadium.
Board members said a challenge will be explaining to voters the tax rate paid by property owners will not rise, as the district will be paying off older debt. And they said they will need to stress the bond’s benefits, including the creation of good paying jobs and a better environment for learning for students and teachers.
“We want our community to start recovering,” Nicholls said. “This is a great way to do this.”
To get on the ballot, a resolution must be submitted to the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office by May 8. School board members intend to approve the resolution May 5.
Meanwhile the Sultan School District, which pulled a six-year, $12.7 million capital levy off the April ballot, is not going to try in August.
However, it is taking out a $1.2 million loan to make roof and structural repairs at Sultan Middle School, said Superintendent Dan Chaplik. And discussions will continue on seeking voter support of a capital levy.
The Lakewood School District’s board of directors will discuss their next steps at a Wednesday study session.
In February, voters rejected two levy measures. District leaders planned to try again in April but changed course as the coronavirus spread.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.