Unlike other communities in Snohomish County that are able to rely on industrial and retail areas to help support property taxes for school and other districts, Lake Stevens is largely a residential city, with homeowners carrying much of the weight of property taxes.
Coupled with a 60 percent approval requirement for bonds, it sets a high bar for passing a 20-year school bond.
But supporters of Lake Stevens $116 million request believe they can and have been making the case for the need in the district while being sensitive to what they are asking of district taxpayers, said Kevin Plemel, board president for the Lake Stevens School District.
With a millage rate of $1.21 per $1,000 of assessed value, the owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay an additional $336 annually in property taxes. Including the last bond, passed by voters in 2005 to build Cavelero Mid-High School and make other improvements, and the most recent maintenance and operations levy and a technology levy, the total school district tax rate would be $2.44 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The $116 million bond, matched by $30 million in school construction money from the state, will:
Fund construction of a new elementary school and an early learning center on a 38-acre parcel of district land, east of Highway 9 between Soper Hill Road and Lake Drive;
Add several new buildings at the high school to provide space for special education classes, music, athletics, and make improvements to the swimming pool, restrooms, parking lot and bus staging area;
Make improvements throughout the district to install new roofing, improve heating and ventilation and add video monitoring, door lock controls and other security upgrades.
The construction of a new elementary school will allow the district to alleviate overcrowding at all elementary schools. Space available for portable classrooms at each of the schools has been maxed out. And portables aren’t an ideal solution, Plemel said, because they don’t provide for the other needs for students, such as restrooms, cafeterias and gym space.
Each of the district’s six current elementary schools were built to handle about 550 students. Most now see enrollments around 600 and two have as many as 750 students. Adding to the need, said district spokeswoman Jayme Taylor, is the welcomed addition of all-day kindergarten throughout the district and the Legislature’s commitment last year to lower class sizes in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.
The lack of space detracts from the teaching environment, says parent Rebecca DeFrang, who has a ninth-grade student at Cavelero Mid-High School, an eighth grader at Lake Stevens Middle and a fifth-grader who is enrolled in the district’s special education program.
It’s the addition of a early learning center that DeFrang is especially supportive of. Her own experiences with a special needs child have demonstrated for her the value of providing education programs for children ages three to five years. That early intervention in a classroom setting, DeFrang said, provides better outcomes for children most in need.
“That’s important to me as a parent,” she said.
Following a extensive public process that assessed and prioritized the district’s needs, the school board developed a list of projects that provides for its current and future enrollment needs and improves the learning environment of its schools.
The quality of Lake Stevens schools has been a factor in much of the residential growth the city and school district is experiencing. We hope its residents, new and long-time, will vote to support the district and its bond request.