Supporters of a $110.9 million bond request for the Monroe School District have done their homework, at least 13 months of it.
Prior to the Monroe School Board’s decision to go to voters with the request, a committee of community members began work in May 2013 to evaluate the current conditions at schools — which currently serve about 7,155 students — assess student’s facility needs and talk with the rest of the community to draft a request that would meet with voter support. As many as 500 people attended meetings. Another 1,000, supporters say, reviewed proposals and discussions online.
Major renovations and new construction are planned at Park Place Middle School, Salem Woods Elementary, Hidden River Middle School, Frank Wagner Elementary and at the Monroe High School athletic fields and its Performing Arts Center. Improvements also are planned at Chain Lake, Fryelands and Maltby elementary schools, Sky Valley Education Center and the Leaders in Learning in Wagner Center. Throughout the district general improvements to safety and security, heating and ventilation, electrical upgrades and roofing, flooring, sidewalks and more also would be funded. The $110.9 million in voter-approved bonds would be matched by an additional $21.3 million in state school construction funds.
Most notably, the improvements would end the use of about 40 portable classrooms throughout the district. The one-room schoolhouse looks idyllic in sepia-toned photographs, but as a classroom environment the portables are less than ideal, particularly in terms of energy efficiency and student security.
“We’ve got to get out of the portable business,” said Ken Hoover, Monroe school superintendent since 2006, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
It’s been more than a decade since district voters approved the district’s last successful bond request in 2003, which built Monroe High, Hidden River and Fryelands and made improvements at Maltby Elementary. And the committee and district officials have made a point of not requesting more from district property owners than they already are paying.
District property owners currently pay $1.48 per $1,000 of assessed value for the district’s bonds. For the owner of a $278,400 home, the median home price in Monroe, the school bond amounts to $412 annually. Monroe Schools will make the last of its payments on its current bonds in 2016. In seeking $110.9 million, the millage rate is expected to remain unchanged at $1.48.
The district easily could have justified seeking a greater amount for additional improvements, but Hoover said, the message that developed during the district’s 13-month review was to keep the tax rate on par with where it has been.
The Snohomish County Auditor’s Office mailed ballots to district voters today. Ballots must be returned by Tuesday, April 28.
Monroe district voters most recently passed a $56 million maintenance and operations levy and $7.5 million technology levy in 2014, each with about 55 percent approval. But the requirement that bonds pass with a 60 percent supermajority means the district’s supporters cannot leave ballots unmarked and unsent, assuming passage is a lock.
The school district and its supporters have completed extensive work to develop a fair and responsible proposal to voters, one that does not seek more than what the community has supported in the past and one that still serves the educational needs of the district’s students.
We urge district voters to vote yes and mail in their ballots.