The Arlington School District board of directors approved a bond proposal for the February ballot that would rebuild Post Middle School and expand Arlington High School.
The bond proposal contains $96 million worth of projects and is a smaller version of the $107.5 million bond proposal that the district attempted twice in 2018.
In February the $107.5 million bond received 55.89 approval and in November it received 52.03 percent approval, but school bonds require 60 percent approval in Washington state to pass.
The school board approved the proposal during their Dec. 10 meeting.
The decision comes after a month of work by the district’s Facilities Advisory Committee about their next steps.
“In the spring of 2018 we did a survey of voters in the district,” said Brian Lewis, Arlington School District’s director of operations.
The biggest problem most voters had was taxes.
“There was concern about the tax rates because the state had increased rates,” he said.
Due to the state legislature’s constitutional responsibility to fully fund education they increased the property taxes they collect in 2018, however to offset this there will be a cap put on local collections that will decrease the amount the Arlington School District collects in 2019.
Overall, the Arlington area will be paying less in school taxes in 2019 than they were in 2017, however in 2018 there was an unusually high collection year.
“Because of that there would be a lot of concerns about the tax rate that the bond would produce,” said Lewis. “So the committee looked for options to lower the dollar amount of the bond, even though the tax rate would still be lower with the original bond."
The school district’s last bond measure was in 2000 and the payments for that are set to expire soon, which is why the district hopes to pass a bond now, said Lewis.
Because of the expiring bond and the cap on local collections, even if this bond passes local property owners are expected to pay less for schools than they were in 2017 and 2018.
A property tax calculator is available at asd.wednet.edu/bond.
No new projects were added to the bond from the previous version and the “priority projects” remain. Lewis said those priorities were a rebuild of Post Middle School, expanding Arlington High School and implementing safety and security improvements in all schools.
District officials say that it is more financially responsible to rebuild Post Middle School rather than renovate it because it would require a number of improvements to bring it up to code before any other changes could be made.
“That would cost 75 percent of the price tag of a complete rebuild just to bring it up to code before making any improvements,” said Lewis.
Eight new classrooms and an art and technology work room would be added to Arlington High School as part of the bond.
The high school could see growth by 200 or more students according to current enrollments in the district’s elementary and middle schools, said Lewis.
“And that is not counting any potential of growth in the city either, just the kids already in our elementary and middle schools,” he said.
Student safety ranks very high in the opinion polling done by the district, said Lewis, which is why safety and security improvements such as security vestibules remain as part of the bond.
“What didn’t resonate as much was improving the athletic spaces,” said Lewis, which is why field drainage improvements and other miscellaneous projects were removed from the bond proposal.
“Those athletic projects are still important to us, but we’ll just have to find another way to fund them,” said Lewis.
Building classrooms will give the district state matching funds, which were originally going to be used to purchase a fifth elementary site, but now could be used for those athletic projects.
If costs don’t escalate too much the district could still do both, said Lewis. The main factor is if construction costs continue to rise like they have for the past few years, he said.
“If we cannot contain costs, we will have to find another way to obtain that site for the fifth elementary,” he said.
The bond measure will be on the ballot on Feb. 12, 2019.