This story was updated Jan. 20 with a correction from the Edmonds School District.
The Edmonds School District will be asking voters in April to consider approving a $180 million capital levy that would provide much-needed building upgrades, address capacity challenges and improve existing facilities.
If approved by voters during the April 27 special election, the levy would provide $30 million per year for six years to replace Spruce and Oak Heights elementary schools, maintain existing school buildings and athletic fields, and make district-wide accessibility improvements.
At $180 million, the proposal over six years has been reduced significantly from the $600 million capital bond the district put before voters last February. That proposal failed after receiving a 56% yes vote. Under state law, bond measures required a 60% majority to pass.
Like the current $180 million proposal, the $600 million bond also would have funded replacement of the aging Spruce and Oak Heights elementary schools — both well beyond their lifespan, Weinberg said. The bond was part of the district’s long-term capital facilities plan, which identifies $1.7 billion in facility needs around the district. One project the district is looking to complete with new bond proposal is the second phase of Spruce Elementary School. Work at Spruce Elementary’s campus was split into two phases, with Phase 1 completing in July 2019.
“If it passes in April, we will start breaking ground on (Spruce Elementary)” Weinberg said. “We’re all ready to go, but that would happen soon.”
Once completed, Spruce Elementary’s replacement facility will be approximately 81,000 square feet with a two-story main classroom building and a one-story gymnasium and common area. Under Phase 2, a new north wing of the replacement facility will be added, including constructing a two-story main classroom building, multiple integrated learning support and small group rooms, a new library and an outdoor project area.
This phase also includes installing new playfields and equipment, separate bus and parent vehicle routes, more parking. Other site improvements to existing grass play fields, emergency vehicle access, neighborhood pedestrian connections and new stormwater management facilities.
As the district begins community outreach for the April proposal, Weinberg said this time staff will focus on highlighting how the district will benefit from the levy’s approval.
“We need to maintain what we have by replacing or upgrading,” she said.
The failed 2020 bond was presented alongside a $96 million replacement technology/capital levy that was approved and funds the continuation of one-to-one computers in grade 2-12 and two students to one computer in grades K-1, along with online curriculum, other software systems and instructional systems. The levy also covers classroom technology, teacher training and support.
A portion of the levy, approximately 37%, also went toward capital facility improvements that include safety, security and emergency preparedness improvements at every school along with other system upgrades and replacements.
Since school districts receive no state or federal funding for improvements to buildings, district construction projects are funded primarily by voter-approved capital bonds and levies. These include school construction and renovations projects, building systems improvements, major maintenance and safety and security upgrades.
Weinberg said district staff are working on ways to present the tax information to voters that help them understand the benefits of the levy. One thing Weinberg stressed was the district’s commitment to keeping tax rates low.
Since 2019, the taxpayers have seen a steady decline in the amount levied against property values. In 2019, taxpayers paid $3.76 per $1,000 of assessed value, and that dropped to $3.71 in 2020.
Currently, the tax rate is set at $2.81 per $1,000 of assessed value because the 2020 bond failed to pass and the district recently paid off previous outstanding bonds. If the new measure passes, Weinberg said taxpayers may see a rate increase from this year, but it will still be lower than past years.
“2021 is kind of like an oddity, if you will, because we’ve paid off outstanding bonds,” she said “We were hoping to keep that rate the same in 2021 with the passing of the bond but because it was unsuccessful it’ll drop this year, and it’ll go up next year, but still less than it’s been in the short term the last few years.”
Additional information regarding the proposed levy and related tax information will be sent out to voters in the coming weeks, Weinberg said.
–By Cody Sexton