The Highline, Kent and Auburn school districts have bond measures on the ballot, with Highline trying to pass its first in 10 years.

Share story

Three King County school districts have school-construction bond measures on the November ballot, including Highline Public Schools, which hasn’t passed a bond measure in a decade.

This time around, that district created a committee of 40 parents and community members that worked for a year to decide what to include in the proposed measure. That committee focused on how to lower the amount of the request, said Chad Harper, a committee member and volunteer with the Yes for Highline campaign.

This year, it’s asking for $299.9 million, lower than the $385 million it sought in 2014 and the $376 million in 2015. The new measure is lower in part because it includes one new middle school rather than two.

“We tried to do as much as we could for less money,” said Harper, who lives in Des Moines. “I think it’s a great return on investments.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

If passed, the money raised by the bond would go toward building new schools and remodeling others. Highline High School, which is more than 90 years old, would be rebuilt, for example, and Olympic Elementary would be renovated. The district also would construct a new middle school, and a new elementary to replace Des Moines Elementary, also nearly a century old. And it would develop designs for future rebuilds of Pacific Middle School, and Evergreen and Tyee high schools.

The bond would also go toward districtwide safety and security improvements, including bringing several buildings up to current earthquake and other safety codes. King County Sheriff John Urquhart has endorsed the measure, saying it will make schools safer.

If passed, the tax rate increase would be approximately 79 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — or $197.50 per year for a $250,000 home — through 2026.

Supporters say the bond would address urgent needs and address overcrowding in a district that has grown by 1,500 students in the past five years.

Opponents say the district’s proposal isn’t logical or affordable, as it would finance construction plans for replacing schools in the next 20 years without knowing if the district could raise the money to complete those projects. Karen Steele, a Normandy Park resident who founded Sensible Spending on Schools, argues that the bond would increase property taxes and rents substantially in an area that is primarily low-income.

“Rent is already skyrocketing,” she said.

The measure requires a minimum turnout of 9,183 voters.

Voters in Kent and Auburn school districts will also decide whether to approve school-construction bonds.

In Kent, the district is seeking $252 million to build two new elementary schools, add classrooms, renovate outdoor athletic facilities and improve safety systems like fire alarms. The tax rate would remain the same because the new bonds replace existing ones, according to the district. That bond measure requires a turnout of 10,572 voters to pass.

The measure failed in the April special election by fewer than 300 votes, and the Kent School Board voted to try again this November. Supporters have tried to get the word out more widely, including mailing information about the measure in multiple languages.

In Auburn, a $465.1 million bond measure would build two new elementary schools and rebuild four others, plus two middle schools, which were all built before 1966. The bond, if passed, would add $1.03 per $1,000 of assessed value to the annual tax bills of that district’s property owners. It requires a turnout of 4,982 voters to pass.

All bond measures require a 60 percent approval to pass and each must also reach a minimum voter turnout.