By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
Everett School District voters are being asked to approve 2019-2022 property taxes to fund capital projects including construction of a new south-end high school with one proposition, and expenses for enhanced services such as early learning and special education with another proposition.
Decision making is being made more complex by changes made last year by the Washington State Legislature to fully fund basic education.
This effort to address the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision increases state school taxes in 2018, but automatically reduces local school district enhancement levies in 2019 with a levy swap.
Property values have risen this year, which also increases each homeowner’s property tax.
A January 25, 2018, Snohomish County Assessor’s Office press release stated an average homeowner will pay $394 more to fund education in 2018 than they did in 2017. This includes the state’s education funding increase as well as the average increase due to rising property values.
In a controversial move, the Everett School District seeks a 2019 enhanced program and operations levy rate of $2.09 per $1,000 of property value, which is above the $1.50 per $1,000 cap imposed by the Washington State Legislature.
School district officials say that the legislature hasn’t clearly defined the difference between basic education funded by the state and enhanced programs such as special education funded by local school district levies. They believe the cap may be lifted in this year’s legislative session so that basic education can be fully funded locally.
If this cap is not lifted by the state in this year, the educational program and operations levy rate will be automatically reduced to $1.50 per $1,000 by the county assessor in time for next year’s property tax bills.
If this cap is lifted by the state and both propositions pass, the total 2019 Everett School District property tax rate will fall from the 2018 rate of $6.38 per $1,000 to about $5.86 per $1,000, which is about the same as the 2017 property tax rate.
If the cap isn’t lifted the total 2019 Everett School District property tax rate will fall to $5.27 per $1,000.
Proposition 1 - Replacement of Expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy.
Proposition 1 is a replacement levy that funds educational programs and operations not funded by the state. It requires a simple majority to pass.
Everett School Board President Caroline Mason said in a recent press release, “The Educational Program and Operation Levy makes up the difference between what the state pays to operate schools and what the actual, local costs are.”
“Costs not fully funded by the state include early learning, summer school, extended day programs, teaching materials and equipment, transportation, music, art, drama, athletics and extracurricular activities, special education, professional training for staff, competitive staff salaries, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, gifted programs and ongoing facilities maintenance.”
The Everett School District plans to improve students’ career readiness by creating vocational programs at each high school as follows:
- Cascade High School: Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing.
- Everett High School: Medical & Health Careers.
- Jackson High School: Information & Communication Technology.
- New High School #4: Energy & Sustainability.
If passed, this replacement property tax levy would first take effect in 2019.
Proposition 2 – Capital Improvement and School Construction Bonds
Proposition 2 finances capital projects and requires a super majority of votes greater than 60% to pass.
The projects funded are as follows:
- New high school #4 will include high tech vocational learning areas focused on energy and sustainability career pathways: $216.8M.
- Cascade High science building modernization and 4,000 square foot addition will include high tech vocational learning areas for aerospace and advanced manufacturing career pathways: $20.2M.
- Everett High vocational building modernization will include high tech vocational learning areas for medical career pathways: $11.0M.
- Jackson High classroom retrofits will include high tech vocational learning areas for communications and information technology career pathways: $1.3M.
- 36 new permanent classrooms district-wide to reduce class sizes at Cedar Wood, Emerson, Jefferson, Mill Creek, Monroe, and View Ridge elementary schools. Parking lot expansions with safety features and access improvements at Emerson and Jefferson elementary schools: $38.0M.
- Land for a future elementary school #20: $5.0M.
- Everett High cafeteria building modernization -- to expand its size and extend the useful life of a central element of the school and community: $22.8M.
- Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades at Penny Creek and Silver Lake elementary schools, Eisenhower and Evergreen middle schools and the maintenance facility: $6.5M.
- HVAC unit upgrades for 12 portable classrooms: $1.0M.
- Electrical system upgrades districtwide: $8.0M.
Options for handling increased high school enrolment if the bond doesn’t pass include:
- Adding more portables at Jackson High, which already has 17. By 2023, without a new high school, Jackson will have 30 portables on campus, possibly on tennis courts, parking lots and/or fields.
- Adding more portables to Cascade High, which has one portable now. Without a new high school, Cascade will have eight more portables in the next five years – by 2023.
- Balancing enrollment at the existing three comprehensive high schools by shifting boundaries so some students now attending Jackson move to Cascade; some from Cascade move to Everett High. Such boundary shifts would involve more student busing – a cost that comes from the same fund which pays for instruction.
- Double shifting – one group of students attends school early in the day; others go later in the afternoon.
- Staggering shifts – For example, nine periods a day with students starting and ending at different times to reduce the number who are in the school at one time.
- Enacting year-round school, with a variety of schedule possibilities.
Ballots must be returned by February 13, 2018.