The Lake Washington School District is passing a $398 million construction bond — after three failed tries. Issaquah, Vashon Island and Everett are also passing school-funding measures, but bonds are falling short in Kent and Marysville.
Voters in the Lake Washington School District were approving a $398 million construction bond measure by 65 percent in Tuesday returns. It’s a huge relief for a crowded district that has failed three previous bond measures to build new schools.
“There is so much celebrating going on right now,” said Superintendent Traci Pierce, at a party with district supporters in Kirkland. “To be passing a bond measure with this much support for the first time in 10 years — we’re ecstatic.”
The district plans to rebuild two aging elementary schools, Margaret Mead and Peter Kirk, and build a new Juanita High School, a new middle school and two new elementaries.
The measure will maintain the current school tax rate of $3.30 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $1,650 annually for a $500,000 home.
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This is the fourth time the district’s leaders and supporters have tried to get money to build new schools. The first was in 2010. Since then, the district has grown by about 625 students a year.
An additional 2,200 students are expected by 2020. Lake Washington officials estimate they’ll need 168 portables next fall to accommodate all students.
In 2010, district leaders attributed the defeat of a $234 million bond measure to the recession. Four years later, the district tried to gain ground on the overcrowding by running a $755 million bond measure that would have raised taxes significantly. It received 58 percent approval, just short of the required 60 percent, but a trimmed-down $404 million measure later that year failed by even more.
The current bond measure faced some vocal opposition from residents who argued that schools could be remodeled at less cost. Others complained that the bond would build three new schools in Redmond but add none in Kirkland or Sammamish.
Supporters organized a campaign that rallied teachers, students and community members. The measure had the support of the mayors of three cities served by the district — Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish — as well as many state elected officials from the area.
After the defeat of the second 2014 bond measure, district leaders formed a 63-member citizen task force that met for almost a year to review long-term facility needs and financing options. The group agreed on the need for more schools across the district. It also recommended that while the new construction be high quality, it should also be cost-effective.
The district plans to run additional bond measures in 2018, 2022 and 2026 to continue to address the need for more classroom space. Leaders plan to phase in new construction projects as existing bond measures expire to keep the tax rate the same.
Other school districts in King County with measures before voters are Issaquah, where a $533.5 million construction bond measure was passing with 70 percent approval; Kent, where a $252 million construction bond measure was falling just short of the needed 60 percent; and Vashon Island, where renewal of an expiring technology and facilities levy was easily passing with 70 percent approval.
Two Snohomish County districts are also asking voters to approve levies and bonds. In Everett, renewal of a building and technology levy was easily passing with 64 percent approval, while a $150 million construction bond measure was narrowly passing with 61 percent.
In Marysville, a $230 million bond measure for school improvements was falling well short of the required 60 percent, with just 48 percent approval.