Stanwood schools ponder tax

Stanwood-Camano School District residents could go from paying the cheapest rate for school taxes in Snohomish County to one of the highest if a proposed bond issue is approved next spring.

How to give input

A second community meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the high school library, 7400 272nd St. NW. An online survey also is available through Nov. 21 at www.stanwood.wednet.edu.

Exactly how much the rate would go up and what work would be done is undecided.

School leaders are presenting residents with four options that would raise property taxes to between $4.85 and $5.16 per $1,000 of assessed value. School taxes include bonds for construction and a levy for day-to-day operations.

The proposals range from $113 million to $140 million, with tax increases ranging from $1.25 to $1.56 per $1,000 valuation. The district currently levies $3.60 per $1,000. At the highest rate, the added cost to the owner of a $200,000 home would be $312 per year.

Rebuilding Stanwood High is the basic focus of each option, along with some stadium improvements. Other proposals include fixes to the two middle schools and two older elementary schools, as well as a full stadium modernization.

School board members hope to approve ballot language by January for a May 16 election.

Darrington School District currently has the highest tax rate at $5.32 per $1,000 assessed value, followed by Snohomish at $5.31, according to figures compiled by Stanwood administrators. Tax rates vary with differences in population and property values.

Sticker shock will be a major hurdle in the months ahead as bond boosters lobby residents for support, said parent Karen Hushagen, who was on a committee that helped design the proposed improvements to the high school.

The campus her two teens attend is little changed since her days, the 1983 Spartan alumna said. “It’s neat to think of the things we could do with it.”

If approved, construction at the high school likely would not start until 2009, with work done in phases and lasting two years.

The original campus, built in 1971, has been added onto multiple times. The last addition was the performing arts center in 2001.

The addition was part of a $25 million package passed by voters in 1998, the district’s last major bond issue. It also built Elger Bay and Utsalady elementary schools, both on Camano Island, and converted an elementary school into an overflow campus for ninth-graders.

Under the latest proposal, the Church Creek Campus would send students back to the improved high school and instead house Lincoln Hill High School and other alternative programs.

School leaders held their first community meeting Thursday at Elger Bay Elementary to discuss ideas with Camano Island residents.

Some participants voiced concern about the focus on city-side needs. Camano Island represents about 45 percent of the district’s 5,400 students, up from 38 percent in 1997.

Erich Schweiger said the bus ride for his teenagers, from their home at the island’s southern tip to the high school, can take two hours.

“I’d like to see some long-range planning for a middle school and high school on Camano,” Schweiger said. “With two elementary schools here, we’re going to have to think about a middle school, at least.”

School leaders are looking for land for a middle school but have no firm plans or a timeline. Current enrollment of 1,360 students in sixth through eighth grades doesn’t yet justify a third middle school, Superintendent Jean Shumate said.

R.J. Freed, 17, a senior at the high school, attended the meeting for civics class credit and will be old enough to vote by the election. He said he likes the idea of a modernized stadium.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to compare our stadium to one like Arlington,” he said.

Reporter Melissa Slager: 425-339-3465 or mslager@heraldnet.com.

By the numbers

Stanwood-Camano School District leaders are seeking comment on four options for a May 16 bond proposal. Listed are the projects under each option, along with estimated costs.

1) New Stanwood High School; stadium improvements Total cost: $113.3 million Tax increase: $1.25 per $1,000 Added cost for $200,000 home: $250

2)New Stanwood High, stadium modernization Total cost: $121.3 million Tax increase: $1.34 per $1,000 Added cost for $200,000 home: $268

3)New Stanwood High, stadium improvements, additions and improvements to Port Susan Middle School, improvements to Stanwood Middle, Stanwood Elementary and Twin City Elementary schools Total cost: $132.7 million Tax increase: $1.47 per $1,000 Added cost for $200,000 home: $294

4)New Stanwood High, stadium modernization, additions and improvements to Port Susan Middle, improvements to Stanwood Middle, Stanwood Elementary and Twin City Elementary Total cost: $140.7 million Tax increase: $1.56 per $1,000 Added cost for $200,000 home: $312

Cost breakdown

Stanwood High School, $112.5 million: Demolish and rebuild into one, connected campus with separate classroom wings to house 1,900 students. The performing arts center built in 2001 would remain.

Port Susan Middle School, $10.4 million: Add a seven-classroom wing, enlarge the library, cafeteria, auxiliary gym and lockers, and improve bus access and drainage on play fields.

Stadium modernization, $8.8 million: Replace the grandstand roof, add a roof to the visitor’s side, replace the field house and resurface the track.

Stanwood Middle School, $4.4 million: Replace heating and ventilation systems, windows, exterior doors and west gymnasium floor; install fire sprinklers in the music and science building.

Twin City Elementary, $2.8 million: Replace the heating and ventilation controls, install foam pads in play areas, replace flooring and carpet, redirect traffic flow to relieve congestion, replace roof and improve main entrance.

Stanwood Elementary, $1.7 million: Replace the heating and ventilation controls, install foam pads in play areas and install new clock and bell system.

Stadium improvements, $800,000: Replace the roof and paint the grandstand.

Source: Stanwood-Camano School District

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