LYNNWOOD — A majority of schools in the Edmonds School District are more than 50 years old.
In the Feb. 11 special election, school leaders are asking voters to fix that by passing a $600 million construction bond — the district’s largest ever.
If approved, the bond would pay to build a new middle school and elementary, replace a middle school and two elementaries and construct an alternative learning center.
“What we are asking from voters is much more than a dollar amount,” former school board president Diana White said in a statement. “We need to continue to invest in the future of our community and that comes when we invest in our students right now.”
The district is also asking voters to approve a $96 million technology and capital levy.
The levy replaces one previously passed in 2016. It would allow the district to continue providing Chromebooks for students, expand classroom display and audio systems, improve Internet access for students at home and pay for a series of facility upgrades.
Under state law, passing a bond requires 60% of the vote. A simple majority is enough to enact a capital levy.
Across Snohomish County, voters will soon decide on a total of nearly $2 billion in possible tax revenue for school districts.
The Edmonds School District, which serves more than 20,000 students, is the largest in the county. The bond and levy will go before voters in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Brier, Mountlake Terrace and parts of unincorporated South County.
The bond is the heftiest on any ballot in the county. If approved, it would pay to replace College Place Middle School, Oak Heights Elementary and Beverly Elementary. The district would also finish rebuilding Spruce Elementary.
New schools would include an elementary near Lynnwood High School and a middle school at the old Alderwood Middle site.
The district would use property taxes to pay off the bond over the next 20 years, but the district says the tax rate won’t rise if it passes. Instead, the rate will fall slightly.
In 2020, district homeowners are paying $3.71 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That’s about $1 less than the rate in 2018.
If the bond and levy are both approved, the 2021 rate is expected to be $3.69, district spokesperson Harmony Weinberg said.
The district is able to maintain its tax rate because it paid off older bonds to make way for new ones, finance director Lydia Sellie said.
On average, property tax rates in the district didn’t change much from 2019 to 2020. But, most homeowners are getting larger bills.
Increases in assessed property values are partially responsible for the higher tabs.
In Edmonds, for instance, the average home value grew by $41,000 to $635,300 from 2019 to 2020.
The cost of the bond and levy are divided among households in the district. Continued population increases could lower the burden for homeowners, Sellie said.
The more people contributing to property taxes, the less each resident has to pay, she said.
“We think this area is still continuing to grow, not rapidly necessarily, but continuing to grow,” Sellie said. “We want to make sure we can accommodate that increase over time. In 10 years, that could be 2,000 students.”
In preparation for the bond measure, the district assembled parents, staff and other district residents. The group was tasked with visiting each school, grading the facilities and outlining district needs. Members were also given enrollment projections.
The report found the district is getting crowded. Most elementary schools are operating over capacity, with more students expected in the next decade.
By 2027, middle school enrollment is projected to exceed capacity.
The task force recommended $1.7 billion worth of construction, renovation and upgrade projects to address all the needs.
Sellie said it would be “financially disrespectful” to ask voters for that sum in one bond. Instead, the district focused on the areas of greatest need.
“Even if you have the funding, you don’t have the capacity for that many construction projects at once,” she said.
Inside the schools, classrooms are equally outdated, Sellie said. Most of the district’s instruction spaces were designed for students who are now retired, she said.
The technology and capital levy, if approved, will be a continuation of the 2016 capital levy.
In addition to laptops and Internet access improvements for students, about $15 million would go toward security upgrades and emergency preparedness.
More than $8 million would go to projects including roofing, flooring, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning repairs.
Mailed ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday. They do not need a stamp. Ballots can also be placed in a designated drop box until 8 p.m. Feb. 11.