Enumclaw School District steps toward asking for $65 million

Making significant improvements to Enumclaw High School and replacing the aging Black Diamond Elementary would require somewhere in excess of $80 million, with about three-quarters of that sum coming from local pocketbooks.

It’s a financial investment voters will likely be asked to make during a spring election.

A final, official decision will not be made until January, but everything is falling into line as follows: members of the Enumclaw School Board and district administration are now in the public information phase; numbers will continue to be firmed up through the winter, with a board resolution coming in January; followed by a public vote in April.

The district’s bond request would require a super majority for passage, or 60 percent support.

Proposed construction

The district would like to build a two-story structure on the southern edge of the current Enumclaw High campus that would replace existing but aging classrooms, along with the library, science labs, music facility, auditorium and gymnasium. According to the district website, the new construction “would dovetail into the remodeled commons, offices, and art and automotive wing.”

Construction at the high school is estimated at approximately $62 million.

Plans for Black Diamond call for replacing the existing school with a new facility, built on the same ground. For a full school year, during construction, Black Diamond students would be transported to Enumclaw where they would fill the J.J. Smith building.

The cost for the new elementary school is estimated at about $20 million.

Security an issue

When Superintendent Mike Nelson went before the Enumclaw City Council recently to explain district plans, he emphasized that student safety was a major concern.

He noted that Enumclaw High now houses students in 10 portable buildings on campus and, at Black Diamond, 40 percent of the student body is housed in portables. That makes for a lot of entry points, Nelson said, allowing anyone into school spaces.

If construction is completed as planned, Enumclaw High would have just three outside entrances instead of the present 70. The current Black Diamond Elementary now has more than 20 entry doors; a new school would have just one.

Financing plans

If district voters were to approve a bond between $60 million and $65 million, the district would receive an additional $18.1 million from the state.

The district will be pitching the fact that local sales taxes would not increase with passage of the bond issue. That’s because an existing bond, passed years ago to build Thunder Mountain Middle School, will be paid off at the end of 2016.

The Thunder Mountain bond now bumps up the districtwide property tax rate by a sum of $1.60 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. That means the owner of property assessed at $250,000 pays $400 annually due to the existing bond.

Tax bills will drop by $400 at the end of 2016 or be replaced with the potential new bond.

Public input sought

The district planned two open houses to explain the proposed bond and hear public comments. The first was last night (Tuesday, Nov. 4) in the Enumclaw High library; the second session is planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, at Black Diamond Elementary.

Additionally, the district is hosting an online survey. It can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/bondsurvey2014. The survey also can be accessed by visiting the Enumclaw School District website and clicking on the appropriate link on the home page. The survey will be available until Dec. 1.