Marysville voters asked to pass $230M bond for multiple schools

  • By Chris Winters Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, April 5, 2016 8:17pm
  • Local News

MARYSVILLE — Voters in the Marysville School District are being asked to vote on a capital bond measure in the April 26 special election.

The ballots will contain one measure. Proposition 1 will ask voters to approve a $230 million general obligation bond.

The proceeds would fund the replacement of Cascade and Liberty Elementary schools and Marysville Middle School, relocate Totem Middle School, build another middle school in the north end of the district, and renovate and modernize much of Marysville Pilchuck High School.

The ballots are scheduled to be mailed Thursday and must be postmarked by April 26 to be counted.

The bond measure needs the approval of a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

If enacted, property taxes in the district would increase by $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For an average $280,000 home, that comes to an additional $350 per year.

The district convened a 36-member citizens advisory committee who met over the past year. The committee resolved to keep the projected tax increase at $1.29 at most, said Marysville School Board President Pete Lundberg.

That was a significant number because it was felt it could pay for a number of improvements across the district, while also being similar in scope to the $1.18-per-$1,000 bond approved in 2006, he said.

That also was the last time a bond was approved in the district, although it was only approved by an 8-vote margin. That $118.2 million bond financed the construction of Grove Middle School and Marysville Getchell High School, plus the artificial turf fields at other high schools.

A $78 million bond on the ballot in February 2010 failed with only 52 percent approval, well short of the 60 percent threshold for passage. In May of that year, a smaller version of that measure also failed by a similar margin.

Lundberg said the bond committee met in most of the school buildings in the district over the past year, touring the facilities so the members could see first-hand their condition.

“They could see what a school built for technology looked like and they could see what a school built in 1970 looked like,” Lundberg said.

In some cases the state of disrepair was obvious. One teacher at Liberty Elementary put her foot through the floor one day.

The heating and air-conditioning systems don’t work well in others, requiring students to wear jackets in class. The system at Marysville Middle in particular is completely outdated.

“They haven’t had parts made for over 20 years. They literally have to MacGyver solutions,” Lundberg said.

Liberty, Cascade and Marysville Middle are also old, built in 1951, 1955 and 1960, respectively. Liberty also has the highest level of poverty among the student body in the district, with 84 percent of students on free or reduced lunch programs.

“It’s really a civil rights issue in our district,” Superintendent Becky Berg said. “We have some of our most disadvantaged students attending some of our oldest schools.”

The new middle school would be built on property the district owns at 152nd Street NE and 51st Avenue NE near the soccer complex. It would alleviate crowding at Totem and Marysville middle schools, both of which have about 900 students.

That, plus the other new construction in the district, would allow the schools to eliminate 23 portable classrooms, Berg said.

Christen Dickerson, a bond campaign chairwoman, said people in the district often look to other districts like Lake Stevens and Mukilteo as places to emulate. But that will require investing in the schools.

“It’s about the students having pride in their schools and having a sense of respect for the buildings that they’re in,” Dickerson said.

“I just have a lot of pride in my town and I want them to have the same kind of memories I had growing up,” she said.

Dickerson is a 2003 Marysville Pilchuck High School graduate and her grandfather, Steve Opel, taught at the school for more than 40 years.

The tax effect of the bond, she said, is small compared with that of other districts, such as Issaquah’s $4.14-per-$1,000 bond measure this year.

“It’s certainly a cheaper alternative to sending your child to a private school,” she said. “I can certainly handle $30 or $40 a month. It’s an obligation to me, it’s part of being in a community.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

This story has been modified to correct the amount of increase per $1,000 of assessed valuation and the estimated additional cost for a $280,000 home.

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