A $120 million levy proposal to build new Liberty and Cascade elementary schools was scheduled to go to the Marysville School District board of directors on Oct. 21.
If the board approves the proposal it will go before local voters, likely on the February 2020 ballot. (The Oct. 21 vote was slated to be taken after the North County Outlook went to press).
The $120 million would be collected over six years which would mean an increase of $1.92 per $1,000 assessed property value in the local tax rate.
The levy proposal is the work of a facility committee made up of mostly parents and community members who began drafting a recommendation last spring, said Jodi Runyon, director of engagement and outreach at the district.
The two replacement elementary schools are the signature project for the levy.
“With the escalation of prices over time we think they’ll cost $126 million to $127 million,” said Mike Sullivan, director of finance and operations at the district.
They’ll also receive a little more than $13 million in state matching funds for the two projects.
“We picked these two schools because the buildings had the greatest need,” said Sullivan.
“We want all of our kids to have access and opportunity to what all our kids are getting,” said Runyon, who said that Grove Elementary, which was built in 2008, is a modern facility and all students should have access to those types of amenities.
Both Liberty and Cascade were built in the 1950s according to Runyon.
This means they weren’t built with modern needs in mind. “Seventy years ago we would have never dreamed that all our students would have computers,” said Sullivan.
Building codes have also changed since that time, sometimes drastically. Sullivan said that there are no sprinkler systems or smoke alarms at Liberty and they are unable to retrofit them in.
Seismic codes have also raised the standards of buildings, said Sullivan.
Liberty was built for a different time when security was not as much of a concern for schools.
“They don’t have doors on the classrooms. They are more open and that was part of the concept of a remodel for the school a while ago,” said Sullivan.
In many areas they are simply running out of space as well.
“You do pullout sessions with kids and give them remedial help with reading and math. Typically you have a classroom for those lessons, but at Liberty they’re in the hallways in little workspaces,” said Sullivan.
In addition, the heating equipment is outdated, sometimes to the point where it is difficult to find replacement parts.
“They’re not energy efficient at all, because that wasn’t necessarily thought of at the time when you built those schools,” said Sullivan.
“We save money in energy costs over time,” with newer heating systems, said Runyon.
If the levy passes the district also wants to make more security improvements to other schools around the district.
“We plan to set aside about a million dollars for safety and security across the district,” said Sullivan.
The district currently has a list of changes they’re making one year at a time, however “there is a lot more need than I have money available right now,” said Sullivan.
Committee officials decided to go with a capital levy instead of a bond for the proposal.
Part of the reasoning is that while bonds require 60 percent approval to pass, levies only require 50 percent plus one.
“We believe the majority of our taxpayers want to build these schools, we just don’t think we have a supermajority,” said Sullivan.
Bonds are similar to borrowed money that the district would receive upfront and pay off over time, usually over 20 years, said Sullivan.
Meanwhile levies are measures that allow the district to collect more funds in taxes. Because of this the district wouldn’t be able to start building the schools right away.
“There is a little bit of delayed gratification there. You’ll vote for it in February 2020. In 2021 we start collecting the money. In 2022 we’ll do the bid opening and hopefully in 2023 we’ll open the school,” said Sullivan.
The district plans to replace Liberty Elementary first.
The levy would be finished after six years, however Sullivan said that the district will likely consider another levy proposal once this one expires.
“Our reality is that in our school district we have a lot of schools that really need to be replaced,” said Sullivan.
“I don’t want to make it sound like this is just six years and then it goes away, because we need to continue this if we’re going to replace our outdated, obsolete schools,” he said.
“Looking to the future, we would like to get into a cycle of continuous improvement. That’s the most traditional method, but in Marysville we haven’t passed a bond since 2006,” said Runyon.
The school board was scheduled to vote on the decision on Oct. 21.
“The board seemed very receptive so I have high hopes they will approve the resolution on Monday,” said Sullivan. “If not, I hope they give us some feedback on what they’d like to see instead, because I think we’re looking at our best chance at starting to replace some schools out there.”