School bonds pass the test | Special Election

Having gained landslide support from voters, three local school districts can launch ambitious construction projects.

When votes were tallied Feb. 9, bond measures proposed by the Sumner, White River and Carbonado school district had passed comfortably.Additionally, voters turned out in healthy numbers, meaning there is no problem validating the elections.

Final numbers were to be released Tuesday and the election is to be certified Thursday.

Along with the trio of capital requests, both the Dieringer and Carbonado districts also had asked for passage of the more-routine maintenance and operation levies; those, too, were approved by healthy margins.

At stake on election day was more than $246 million in planned school improvements, proposed by the Sumner, White River and Carbonado school systems. Here’s a brief synopsis of each request, with the apparent outcome and financial impact on property owners.

• Sumner School District: The district asked for $145.6 million. The largest of the local systems, with two high schools and three middle schools,Sumner can now add to its roster of facilities. Bond sales will finance a new elementary school and early learning center, replace Emerald Hills Elementary School and expand a trio of current buildings – Sumner High, Bonney Lake High and Mountain View Middle School.

Voters responded with a 66 percent show of support. Needing 3,149 votes to validate the election, the district saw more than 8,300 cast mail-in ballots.

District spokewoman Sarah Gillespie said the first priorities will be the new elementary, earmarked for the southern portion of the district, and the early learning center in the Sumner Valley. Estimates call for those projects to be completed in the fall of 2018, she said. The rebuild of Emerald Hills is planned by the fall of 2019, expansion of Bonney Lake High should come in fall 2020 and work on Sumner High and Mountain View Middle School follows in 2021.

The district had made it clear that property taxes would increase with bond passage. According to information provided by the district, the tax bump will be about 45 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. That means an additional $90 annually on property assessed at $200,000.Collections will begin in January 2017 and continue for 20 years.

On top of the local investment, the district anticipates receiving approximately $6.3 million in impact fees due to development, plus an additional$27.7 million from the state.

• White River School District: Voters were asked to approve a request for nearly $99 million. With the bond approved, the district will renovate major portions of Glacier Middle School; renovate and increase capacity at Elk Ridge Elementary; replace the multi-purpose room and kitchen at Wilkeson Elementary; repair and upgrade Foothills Elementary and Mountain Meadow Elementary; and make significant improvements to the athletic stadium at White River High School.

A fraction more than 68 percent of the voters supported the measure. There were almost 4,300 votes cast, with 1,548 required for validation.

Superintendent Janel Keating said a project management team has been working on a timeline for construction, something she hopes to receive“shortly.” An architect has been chosen for the extensive Glacier Middle School project, she added, and will quickly get to work. The end goal, Keating said, is to have everything finished by 2019.

Bond supporters hammered home the fact that property owners will see no increase in their tax statements. The present rate of $2.80 per $1,000 of assessed property value will remain steady because a current bond, which paid for White River High, will be paid off with the close of the calendar year.

• Carbonado Historical School District: Voters were asked to direct $1.75 million the district’s way. Among other things, the money will pay for increased classroom capacity; modernization, upgrading and replacement of portions of the historical main school building; and the upgrading off our classrooms to make the accessible for STEM instruction.

Plans also call for removal of a concrete ramp that extends across the front of the school and its awning. That would return the school to its original look. Inside, ambitious plans call for dropping the auditorium floor/basketball court by several feet, making it accessible to all.

Superintendent Scott Hubbard said plans call for construction to begin in the summer of 2017 and be wrapped up by February 2018. While work is being done on the main building, which houses four classrooms, portable will be brought onto campus to house the displaced students.

Property owners in the close-knit community have traditionally been supportive of their K-8 school system and this time was no different. Carbonado received the greatest support of all the bond issues being proposed throughout Pierce County, with almost 79 percent “yes” votes. There were 238votes tallied with 147 required.

Collections of the $1.75 million will be spread over 20 years. The collection rate is estimated to be $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed property value; the district uses property assessed at $125,000 as an example, noting the additional tax burden will be $18.75 per month or $225 annually.

That is more than offset, however, by a White River School District bond that Carbonado residents have been contributing to for the past 15 years;that indebtedness, with a rate of $2.12, will expire at the end of the calendar year, meaning property taxes for schools will decrease. Carbonado residents will not be paying on the bond passed last week by the White River district.