Liberty Elementary School (top) and Cascade Elementary School. (Marysville School District)

Liberty Elementary School (top) and Cascade Elementary School. (Marysville School District)

Marysville schools seek $120 million in Tuesday’s election

The capital levy would replace Cascade and Liberty elementaries, both built nearly 70 years ago.

MARYSVILLE — School district leaders are asking for a $120 million capital levy in the upcoming special election to replace Marysville’s two oldest schools.

Cascade and Liberty elementaries were both built nearly 70 years ago. The money would also go toward security upgrades throughout the district.

Eight other Snohomish County school districts are also asking for bonds or levies in Tuesday’s special election.

Marysville’s six-year capital levy is estimated to cost $1.93 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That equals about $710 each year, or $59 a month, for an average-priced home worth $370,000.

Superintendent Jason Thompson believes the district is asking to fund only the most urgent projects.

“We’re not just wanting to tax like crazy … we’re doing what needs to be done,” he said. “The only way to build schools is through a levy or a bond to raise taxes, we don’t have any other revenue source.”

Marysville residents are already seeing a jump in property taxes this year, with homeowners paying an average of 32% more, or $902. One of the many causes is a new voter-approved regional fire authority.

To come up with the capital levy, a group of parents and others with ties to the district met for about a year. Mike Sullivan, the district’s executive director of finance and operations, provided guidance and information.

“We had some members who wanted to do more,” Sullivan said. “But we definitely had the consensus if we only take care of two buildings, they are the two to take care of.”

The district could have either asked for a bond or a capital levy. It last passed a bond in 2006 to build Marysville Getchell High School and Grove Elementary School.

This time, it chose a capital levy. One big difference between the two is that a bond needs 60% plus one vote to pass, while a capital levy needs 50% plus one vote.

Cascade and Liberty have been maintained over the years, but neither have ever been remodeled. About 850 students are enrolled between both schools, according to state data.

Rising construction costs mean it would be more expensive to replace the buildings later, Sullivan said.

Years ago, Washington State University evaluated every school in the district and ranked them based on condition. Back then, Liberty was the only school labeled as poor, but Cascade came in close second, Sullivan said.

Both schools share similar problems.

Many classrooms don’t have doors, but are sectioned off with temporary walls. In the case of a lockdown, those spaces are left open.

Students who need extra help outside of the classroom complete their lessons at tables in the halls, and sometimes get distracted by people walking through. Occupational and physical therapists also use the hallways to work and have hung curtains for privacy.

Some equipment is so outdated that parts aren’t made any more. That means if one piece breaks, it all has to be replaced.

That happened at Cascade a few years ago, when a heater caught fire on the school’s roof. The flames didn’t spread far and there was no structural damage, but the gymnasium below filled with smoke, Sullivan said.

While water is safe to drink, it comes out discolored because of old pipes. Most classrooms have one electrical plug, and are not equipped for the kind of technology used today.

Both schools have multiple portable classrooms where students are separate from the main buildings. They have to walk outside to use the restroom or visit the nurse’s office.

At Liberty, stairs are the only option to reach the main entrance. The only way people with limited mobility can get inside is by using a ramp in the back of the building, creating longer trips.

The list goes on.

If the proposal is approved, students will likely be able to stay in the current schools while construction happens on another part of the property, Sullivan said.

Security upgrades are also included in the capital levy plan. If the two elementary schools are rebuilt, those features would be included in the designs.

More secure entrances would be installed at other schools. Campuses with multiple buildings, such as Marysville Pilchuck High School and Pinewood Elementary School, could get surveillance cameras and fencing where needed.

Kids should be proud of their schools, said Jodi Runyon, the district’s director of engagement and outreach.

“As a public school system, we want what’s best for our students,” she said. “Modern and efficient buildings do bring that sense of pride to our students, to our staff and community.”

Other school districts with proposals on the ballot include Arlington, Darrington, Edmonds, Lakewood, Monroe, Mukilteo, Snohomish and Stanwood-Camano.

The Arlington district hopes to pass three different measures.

A $71.5 million bond would pay to tear down and replace Post Middle School. There’s also a separate, four-year $25 million capital levy for security and safety improvements, and to add classrooms at Arlington High School.

The district also is looking to renew its four-year educational programs and operations levy, to pay for programs and staff not covered by state funding.

In Darrington, school leaders are seeking a $1.65 million supplemental levy to be paid over two years. It would go toward operations and educational programs.

Edmonds has the biggest proposal — a $600 million bond and a four-year $96 million technology and capital levy.

It would go toward a new middle school and elementary school, pay for the replacement of one middle school and two elementary schools, and construction of an alternative learning center. It also would pay for technology and security upgrades.

Lakewood has proposed to renew two levies: one for operations and education programs, and another for technology and capital improvements.

Monroe voters have been asked to pass a six-year $12.3 million levy for classroom computers, software and digital training for students. Another six-year technology levy is expiring.

In Mukilteo, a $240 million bond would pay for additions to Challenger, Horizon and Discovery elementaries, and Mariner High School. It also would go toward additions and partial replacements at Explorer Middle School, and Mukilteo and Serene Lake elementaries.

Snohomish school leaders hope to pass a $470 million bond to replace six elementary schools and renovate one and add safety and security features throughout the district.

In Stanwood-Camano, voters are being asked to renew a four-year levy to pay for school operations and education programs.

Ballots returned in the mail must be postmarked by Tuesday, no stamp needed. Others can be placed in drop boxes around the county by 8 p.m. that same day. A list of locations can be found online at snohomishcountywa.gov.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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