The chance to vote on the Enumclaw School District’s $253 million bond measure is less than a month away, and officials are working hard to inform the public about what the bond could mean for students and families.
Two in-person chats with staff about the bond are scheduled for later this month — one will be hosted at J. J. Smith Elementary tomorrow, Jan. 19 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and another at Black Diamond Elementary on Jan. 24 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
But if you can’t make these sessions, here are some frequently asked questions about the bond, provided by the school district and supplemented with additional information. A full list of FAQs and their answers can be found at enumclaw.wednet.edu/page/bond-2023.
Ballots for the Feb. 14 election will be mailed to voters on Jan. 25; those not already registered to vote can do so online or by mail by Feb. 6, or in-person on Election Day.
Unlike many other measures you’d find on a ballot, bond measures have a higher bar to reach if they are to pass.
For example, instead of needing a simple majority of votes (50%) to pass, bond measures need a supermajority (60%).
Additionally, at least 40% of voters who participated in the previous general election need to turn in a ballot for this election in order for the measure to pass.
WHAT IS THE BOND FOR?
The $253 million bond — the largest ever attempted by ESD — will affect the entire district.
The bond, if approved, will fund two new elementary schools and a new Birth To Five Center; the district plans to demolish both Byron Kibler Elementary and J. J. Smith Elementary to build a new elementary, complete with a new Birth To Five Center, on the J. J. Smith land.
The district will continue to own the land where the old Byron Kibler Elementary used to stand. It can’t be used to build a new school because of a large wetland area on the land, but it could be used for a future project, and maybe community space or an open playfield in the meantime.
Byron Kibler and J. J. Smith were built in 1953 and ‘57 respectively; Kibler received about $763,000 in bond funds for maintenance in ‘97, but subsequent bonds — one in 2003 that would have funded a “complete modernization” of the building and replace the west wing, and other in ‘04 that would have again paid for modernization, a new bus loading zone, and new play areas, failed to pass, said district Director of Communications Jessica McCartney in an email interview.
The bond that passed in 2015 did not include funds for Byron Kibler.
Additionally, another elementary school in Black Diamond’s Ten Trails development will be built to accommodate the rapidly-increasing student population in that area.
But that’s not all — the bond will also fund a new high school performing arts center, replacing its current auditorium for something more modern.
The last massive project is constructing a new sports stadium for year-round use. The new stadium would include increased seating capacity, locker rooms and other facilities for students, better ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access, allow the district to rent the facility out for regional and state competitions, and give the district a reliable location for graduation.
The stadium will be built in the open field between Boise Creek Park and Sunrise Elementary.
Other smaller projects include various structural, technological, and security repairs and upgrades to all other district buildings. Security upgrades include entrance and entryway redesigns, front door access controls and communications, access control for exterior doors at various locations, additional fencing, and district-wide camera additions, to name a few security upgrades.
According to a building assessment report performed by the Seattle-based McKinstry firm, which examined the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems at all district buildings, Enumclaw Middle School, the Pete’s Pool sports stadium, the transportation building, and Southwood Elementary (plus Byron Kibler and J. J. Smith) rated as having “moderate impact” to some of its occupants due to their age. (Lower ratings included “high impact” and “may be unusable”.)
Westwood Elementary and Enumclaw High were rated to have a “mild impact” on some occupants, but only just. Sunrise Elementary and the district administration building got solid “mild” ratings, and the current Black Diamond Elementary, built in 2017, received the only “little to no impact” rating.
WHAT’LL IT COST ME?
Long story short, the a homeowner with $600,000 in assessed property value could see their property tax bill increase by $78 a month, or $936 a year, if this bond is approved, according to the district.
For those who like to delve into the numbers, bond approval would mean the district’s overall tax rate (which includes the recently-passed EP&O levy, a tech levy, and leftover payments from the 2015 bond) will increase by $1.56 in 2024, from $2.63 per $1,000 in assessed property value to $4.19.
That makes ESD’s share of your total property tax bill increase from $1,578 to $2,514.
Voters should note that many shifting variables could make these numbers shift, including rising or falling assessed property values and changes in the lending market rates.
Additionally, keep in mind school property taxes are only a part of overall tax collection.
If you’d like to calculate closer to how the bond could impact you, head to ESD’s bond calculator at enumclaw.wednet.edu/page/bond-2023, under the “What is the tax impact?” tab.
WERE THERE ANY LESS EXPENSIVE OPTIONS?
The Enumclaw School District Board of Directors were considering three different bond options, each with different estimated costs.
The first was presented as a “bare bones” option, which included only funds for the two new elementary schools, upgrades to the current high school auditorium, and various repairs and upgrades to other district buildings.
Option one’s estimated cost came in at $181 million.
The second option was everything included in the first, but added a whole new high school performing arts center to the package. The price tag was estimated to be $221 million.
Option three is what’s on the upcoming ballot. The board chose to pursue option three after attempts to gather public input — both online and in-person — showed this option was the most favored by district residents.
About 287 opinions were gathered via the online Thought Exchange survey platform. A plurality (70) supported the third scenario, while the second-most preferred option (50)was no bond at all. Bond scenario one came in with the third-most (40) positive mentions.
In person, 382 residents said they would support bond scenario three, while only 51 people said they’d support scenario two, and 45 for scenario one. The district did not poll for “no bond” opinions in person.
WHAT IF THE BOND DOESN’T PASS?
According to the district, if the bond does not pass and student population growth continues as predicted, the district will first use up all classroom space available in any of its elementary schools (which could involve bussing students from Black Diamond to Enumclaw, or vice versa). After that, ESD will have to look at using portables to compensate, which could pull money that would normally be used elsewhere in the district’s budget.
To give you an idea of how student population could grow in the next several years, Black Diamond alone is expected to grow from its current population of about 378 students to 446 students next year. (the city’s elementary has a capacity of 430).
By the 2028-2029 school year, ESD expects more than 1,000 students will living in Black Diamond will be served by the district.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 2015 PERFORMING ARTS CENTER?
Many voters may recall that the 2015 bond — which passed by only four votes — promised a new performing arts center and gym for EHS.
According to the district, once the bond was approved and consultants started truly examining construction costs, the cost of the performing arts center and the gym exceeded the bond amount.
Then-Superintendent Mike Nelson said one reason the district’s numbers were so off was because they were misinformed how much the state would be contributing to the bond. The other was that construction estimates were off by as much as 30%.
McCartney was not able to immediately provide the name of the firm that provided the district this information by print deadline, but added that ESD is using a different vendor for this bond.
The district has said it has learned from its mistake, and instead of relying on state funding, ESD is asking for the full bond amount that construction estimates requires.