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School district, county seek money on Tuesday ballot

Enumclaw wants to build new school

By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

Enumclaw School District officials and supporters are making one last effort to get the word out about its $42.9 million bond to build a new J.J. Smith Elementary School and remodel many other district facilities.

The vote is Tuesday. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday.

The Committee to Support the Issues and the school district were making last-minute efforts to educate the public on the bond. The school district opened the doors of its facilities, especially those in line to receive work, to community exploration Thursday evening. District officials, board president Mike Goodfellow and Committee to Support the Issues co-chairs Mike Runland and Trip Hart have been part of a question-and-answer series running on Enumclaw City TV, purchased advertisements in The Courier-Herald and posting information on the Committee to Support the Issues Web site www.4RKids.net.

The school district is asking voters for $42.9 million, and state matching funds of $9 million, in hopes of building a new J.J. Smith Elementary School on district-owned land near Thunder Mountain Middle School north of Enumclaw. Eventually the old J.J. property would be sold. That money would go into the capital fund and can only be used to pay off debt or spend on capital projects.

The bond money would also be used at Kibler Elementary School to demolish and rebuild the west wing, modernize the 100 building and build a new covered play structure and reorganize street frontage.

Enumclaw Middle School would get a new 50-year metal roof and handicap accessible bathrooms, carpet, a new clock and intercom system, heating system, fire alarm system, upgraded track and paved bus drop-off.

Enumclaw High School would get a portion of its wish list, including modernization of its 1961 200 building, revamping of the 300 building, a music addition, a science wing, bus loop and maybe some work at the library.

Westwood Elementary School would get the remainder of its modernization.

McDougall, the street which runs from Semanski Street to 244th, would receive major upgrades.

Black Diamond Elementary would get modernization. Also on the list is some utility infrastructure upgrades and work at the transportation area.

With interest rates at record lows and a favorable construction bid climate, the school board agreed now is the right time to run the bond. The board also took comfort in the fact that it will stay within the total dollar package, for all bonds and levies, promised taxpayers - approximately $5.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

According to information from the King County Elections department, the Enumclaw School District needs a "super majority" of support, plus minimum turnout to validate the election. That means, with numbers based on the Nov. 5, 2002, election, Enumclaw needs a minimum of 3,384 voters to turn out and, of those, 2,031 must vote "yes."

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

Parks continues to add funding sources

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

Three months after agreeing to raise their property taxes to support a swimming pool, local voters are facing another ballot measure that would bump tax rates in the name of recreation.

This time, however, it's not just an Enumclaw issue.

On Tuesday, voters throughout King County will decide the fate of Proposition 1, which would generate additional dollars primarily to pay for maintenance and operation of the county's regional and rural parks.

The tax proposal is the latest measure by King County to rescue its financially-strapped parks operation.

Proposition 1 asks voters to increase property taxes by 4.9 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That equates to additional taxes of $9.80 per year for the owner of a $200,000 property, or $12.25 annually on property assessed at $250,000. Brooke Bascom, a spokesperson with the county's Department of Natural Resources and Parks, said the tax increase would generate $11.8 million per year.

Proposition 1, if passed, would collect the additional taxes for four years.

Bascom said the new money would allow the department to "maintain what we have now, and provide some extras for maintenance and operations." Parks would be "cleaner and healthier," she said, noting that trails would be maintained better and garbage picked up more often.

The department has seen its budget sliced by $10.1 million over the past two years, Bascom said. Among its cost-cutting measures was the decision to no longer maintain facilities found inside incorporated cities, including the Enumclaw swimming pool. It was determined the pool would be mothballed, unless other ownership could be found. Enumclaw voters stepped to the plat and, in February, decided to increase their property taxes to keep the facility operating; ownership transferred from King County to the city April 1.

To save the pool, city voters agreed to increase the local property tax rate by 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Beginning the first of 2004, tax bills will climb by $32 for the owner of a $200,000 property.

The county's proposal, if passed, would also begin Jan. 1, 2004.

King County manages a handful of properties in the Enumclaw area, some to a high degree (such as the King County Fairgrounds) and some minimally (Farmer's Park). Other county parks properties in the area include Lake Sawyer, Whitney Bridge Park, Flaming Geyser Park, Mount Peak and Bass Lake.

Proposition 1 requires a simply majority to pass.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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