Officials encourage council to support $219 million school bond

December 1, 2011

By Christina Lords

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Issaquah School Board President Jan Colbrese knows the district must maintain equitable resources, infrastructure and quality education throughout its 15 elementary, five middle and four high schools.

That’s one reason the district will ask voters to support its April 17 $219 million capital improvement bond, which includes money for upgrades to nearly every school in the district — even during a time during such economic uncertainty, she said.

“Our problem is that we have children in school right now,” Colbrese said. “You can’t tell those kids, ‘I’m sorry, you’re in this economic time. It’s a really hard time.”

Members of the school board met with the Newcastle City Council on Nov. 7 to discuss the bond and other issues facing the district, including possible improvements to traffic flow in the drop-off area at Newcastle Elementary School.

“We’ll be coming to you with reports for support on this measure because if the district is soundly managed, and if the district is a place where people know a quality education is being provided, then it helps your city as well,” Colbrese said.

Because the new bond package is expected to be about half as much as the district’s bond debt that is retiring in 2012, residents in the district should see a decrease in school-related taxes, even if the bond is approved, according to the district.

“If we don’t do this well and convince people of the need, if we fail this, what are our odds of ever coming back to our community and say, ‘Oh guess what? Now we’re going to raise your taxes,’” Colbrese said. “It can be extremely difficult.”

As the district’s bond debt retires, the owner of a home valued at $500,000 would pay about $430 less per year in property taxes if the bond fails, while the resident of the same house would pay $215 less in property taxes if it passes.

Part of the $219 million bond includes $44.5 million for a project that would reconfigure and expand the Liberty High School commons, relocate the school’s kitchen, modernize classrooms, and complete video and TV labs.

The measure would add an auxiliary gym, modernize the locker room and repair roofing outside of Liberty’s remodel area.

The plans call for moving the existing football bleachers at the high school to the visitor’s side of the field, build new home bleachers that would seat 2,000 people and create a new press box on the west side of the field.

Projects totaling $3.8 million at Maywood Middle School include replacing windows, kitchen flooring, classroom carpeting and vinyl wall coverings at the school.

It also provides funding for converting the school’s football field to artificial turf and improving its track.

“A number of the items that are in the bond are there to reduce our operations and maintenance costs,” said Steve Crawford, director of capital projects for the district. “If we can spend money to put turf fields in and save $150,000 in maintenance, those are dollars that don’t have to be spent out of the general fund to maintain those fields. Those are classroom dollars.”

About $7.2 million worth of the bond would go toward increasing Apollo Elementary School’s permanent capacity by 120 by adding six classrooms; expanding the commons; enclosing the school’s exterior walkways; and replacing carpeting in corridors, classrooms and office space.

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