Upgrades to the Lake Tapps Elementary School include three new classrooms, in blue, and a secutiry door at the front entrance, plus others. Image courtesy of the Dieringer School District.

Dieringer residents to vote on $9.5 million school bond

The bond, which would go toward renovating both elementary schools and the middle school, as well as pay the district’s share of remodeling the Bonney Lake and Sumner high schools, comes with a property tax rate increase of $0.23 per $1,000 in assessed value.

The deadline for the Feb. 14 special election is fast approaching, which means Dieringer School District residents have less than a week to vote on a $9.5 million bond measure for the district.

The bond, which would go toward renovating both elementary schools and the middle school, as well as pay the district’s share of remodeling the Bonney Lake and Sumner high schools, comes with a property tax rate increase of $0.23 per $1,000 in assessed value.

This equates out to roughly $9.58 per month for a $500,000 home.

The total bond rate will be around $2.47 through 2022 for area residents, and is expected to decrease by around $0.35 for the remaining life of the bond afterward, reads the bond’s explanatory statement.

But the bond is more than just paying for extra security doors or additional classrooms — if it doesn’t pass, the district risks being disincorporated and absorbed by surrounding districts, said Superintendent Judy Martinson.

To pass, at least 2,038 residents need to vote, and a supermajority (or 60 percent) of those voters need to approve the measure.

WHAT’S BEING BUILT

The district is splitting the bond money into three general projects – adding three classrooms to Lake Tapps Elementary, adding security doors and replacing the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems in all three schools, and paying Dieringer’s share of remodeling the Sumner School District’s two high schools.

The reason Lake Tapps needs new classrooms, Martinson said, was because of the recent education rules passed by the Legislature.

“The legislature, a few years ago, lowered primary class sizes,” she said. “We used to be able to put 100 children in four rooms. Now I need five rooms for that same 100 children.”

Also, the state legislature made full-time kindergarten mandatory, which further limited the space the school had for classrooms.

The district plans to start construction on the new classrooms in March (if the bond passes), and plans to move students out to portables during that time.

The reason why construction can start so soon on the new classrooms is because the Dieringer School Board took an exceptional action last summer, Martinson said.

“If we had not done that, we would have had to wait to run the bond issue,” she continued. “We wouldn’t be doing construction for this fall. It would be for the following fall. And we’re already out of room.”

Lake Tapps Elementary is also going to sport a new security entrance, complete with a security camera and a buzz-in system.

All together, with replacing the school’s HVAC replacement and a new coat of paint, Lake Tapps Elementary’s projects will cost an approximate total of $2 million.

Another $1.3 million goes to addressing issues at the other two schools.

“The have the same HVAC system control issues that need to be updated,” Martinson said. “And they both just need some physical upgrades, as well as security entrances at both schools.”

And the remaining $6.2 million, she continued, will go out of district to help renovate the Bonney Lake and Sumner high schools.

HIGH SCHOOL RENOVATIONS

Dieringer School District is a kindergarten through eighth grade district, and has no high schools.

State law allows students that graduate from Dieringer to attend any high school they wish, provided they have adequate transportation.

But state law also requires the Dieringer School District to participate in other districts’ capital bonds, if 33 percent or more Dieringer students attend that district’s high schools.

“Which only makes sense, because it’s not fair to ask the Auburn voters to build schools for Dieringer children, or Sumner voters to build schools for Dieringer children,” Martinson said.

Currently, 64 percent of graduated Dieringer students head to the Sumner School District, which means Dieringer has to help out with the $164 million bond measure Sumner School District voters approved last year.

But Dieringer doesn’t have to help pay for Sumner’s elementary or middle schools, Martinson said – only the high schools.

And when Sumner’s bond is boiled down, only $62 million of the $164 million bond is going to the high schools.

Dieringer’s share of that $62 million is 10 percent, or $6.2 million, because Dieringer students make up 10 percent of the total students in the Sumner School District high schools.

But if Dieringer’s bond measure doesn’t pass, and the district doesn’t help fund Sumner’s high school remodels, the district may face some dire consequences.

“If we fail to pass it, then we have to immediately put it on the ballot again and run it again within 60 days,” Martinson said. “If it still doesn’t pass, then it’s turned over to a regional committee that determines the disposition of the district — assets and liabilities.

“What that means is that they can decide to take all of the district and give it to an adjoining district… or they can divide it and redistrict it,” Martinson said.

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