If taxpayers agree to pay $47M for Sultan shools, state will add $10M

SULTAN — Voters here are deciding whether to approve a proposed tax hike on the Feb. 9 ballot that would pay for school improvements.

The Sultan School District is asking taxpayers to agree to a $47.7 million bond. If passed, the measure is estimated to bring in another $10.7 million from a state construction match.

The 25-year bond would raise the tax rate in 2017 from about 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to $2.40. The bond will cost $490 for the owner of a $230,000 home.

The district wants to use about $58.4 million from the proposed bond and match to update four schools and construct a new staff building. A 60 percent supermajority is required for the measure to pass.

Superintendent Dan Chaplik said the estimated amount of state match money is about $2 million more than the figure listed on information the district mailed to voters last week. The published amount was calculated using inaccurate square footage of a vocational building, he said.

The state determines how much money to pitch in on bond projects based on several factors, such as the size of the instructional space and student count.

Sultan voters last passed a bond in 1998 to pay for capital improvements that were not covered by operating budgets and levy money. A four-year maintenance and operations levy was approved in 2014 to help cover the cost of running schools.

Some of the district’s past bonds were paid off or refinanced between 2000 and 2008, which lowered the tax rate during the past 16 years to 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, from $2.17. The three remaining bonds are to expire in 2017.

Chaplik said the district waited to ask for more money to give taxpayers a break during the recession.

“We were trying to be mindful because the economy was down,” he said.

Last year, a group of about 30 residents and staff looked into the needs at Sultan’s crowded schools and decided which improvements were most needed to serve the district’s 2,000 students.

Sultan High was built in 1987 for 325 students. Now, it has one science lab for about 560 students.

The proposed bond would provide about $32.4 million to expand the welding shop and put in eight new classrooms, including four labs. It would also bring in money to build a new gym and a performing arts center, expand the music room and upgrade security. The school’s track and synthetic-turf field would also be improved.

If approved, the bond would also provide about $6.1 million to construct a new building to house the district office, the technology center, maintenance and buses next to Sultan Middle School.

The middle school is slated to get almost $3.3 million for improvements, including modernized classrooms and replacing the roof and gym floor. Also to replace roofs, the district’s elementary schools in Sultan and Gold Bar are to receive about $3.8 and $2.2 million, respectively.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports

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