I have done quite a bit of research into both issues on this ballot and as a proponent for this bond and levy I wanted to clarify some of the confusion voters have expressed regarding the effects it will have.
First and foremost — the tax issue: The school board has explained that the local school district tax rate for voters would remain the same. What this means is, if this bond and levy pass, your school district levy tax rate will not increase. How is that possible you ask? The levy on your ballot is replacing a previous school district levy that will expire at the end of this year. The district is paying off old bonds and therefore can add new bonds without asking taxpayers for more money. Combined, the bond and levy would maintain the current tax rate of $3.71 per $1,000 of assessed home value, which is what we will pay in 2020. In fact, the district predicts we will actually pay $3.69 per $1,000 of assessed home value in 2021.
In response to those who take offense to the $696 million dollar amount ($600 million for the bond, $96 million dollars for the levy) the district is requesting: The Edmonds School District houses 20 elementary schools, two K-8 schools, four middle schools, five high schools and covers an area of 36 square miles. It also houses a preschool program and an online learning program. In total, this district is responsible for educating over 20,000 students. The Edmonds School District is not just the schools within the city of Edmonds. It includes the schools in Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Woodway and parts of unincorporated Snohomish County.
This bond will allow the district to build two new schools, replace three others and cover the cost of other district-wide building improvements. This includes a new middle school on the former Alderwood Middle School campus, a new elementary school near Lynnwood High School, the completion of the new construction at Spruce Elementary School and the replacement of College Place Middle School, Oak Heights Elementary and Beverly Elementary schools. Each of the schools to be replaced are over 50 years old and have far exceeded their student capacity.
Some recent editorials have quoted a student growth rate of 1% or less within the last two years. While that may be the case for a few of the schools in the district, the growth rate at others is far higher. And, that statistic does not incorporate the growth rate over the years since the schools were built. For example, Spruce Elementary School’s student population of 566 students has grown by 11% over five school years. Oak Heights Elementary is 52 years old. With 620 students, it’s the biggest elementary school in the district, and approximately 150 students over capacity. By 2027, enrollment at Oak Heights alone is projected to be 806 students in a school built for an estimated 450. Currently, the district’s elementary schools are at 107% of capacity. The new school buildings would help reduce overcrowding in classrooms, as well as accommodate future growth. Families are continuing to move to the Edmonds School District. This overcrowding problem will only get worse, not better.
For those of us who have children or grandchildren enrolled in the school district, it is easy for us to observe first-hand the positive impact this bond and levy will have on their learning environment and quality of education.
For those of you who don’t have a direct connection to the school district, I ask you to consider this: these kids are our future and it is in everyone’s best interest to invest in their success. One of them might be the oncologist that cures your cancer, or the structural engineer that designs a beach overpass Edmonds agrees on, or an environmental scientist that finds a way to save our planet. Education for our youth is an investment. It does not come cheap because it is valuable. Please vote yes and make this community as good for our kids as it has been for us. Given the opportunity, I guarantee they will do the same.