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Riverview District putting bond issue on February ballot

  • Written by Madeline Coats

The Riverview School District is placing a bond issue on the February election ballot. If passed, the measure will fund a new elementary school, safety and security, school expansions and districtwide maintenance. 

The proposed bond would cost $125 million.

The last time Riverview School District ran a bond was 13 years ago. Based on the district’s 20-year capital projects plan, the next bond would be 15-20 years from now. The district has passed all historical bond and levy measures since 2001.

“Not all districts can say that,” said Communications Director Mike Ward. “We’re very fortunate to have goodwill and a good level of trust in the community.”

The estimated tax rate in 2020 is $4.37 with a bond and $3.28 without a bond. The difference between the two rates is $1.09 in assessed valuation. 

The district’s only outstanding debt is attributed to the February 2007 bond authorization, Ward said. The remaining debt amount will combine with the assessed valuation for the 2020 bond. This equates to a total projected bond tax rate of $2.06 per $1,000 of assessed value.

While the tax rate is increased, Ward said it will still be much less than it was in 1991 and 1997.

“While the district cannot predict every possible situation that could impact the bonds prior to their issuance and over their lifespan, the board and administration believe the assumptions utilized for planning are conservative,” the district said.

About $54 million for the proposed bond will go toward funding for the new elementary school. The project intends to relieve overcrowding at the three other elementary schools in the district. The building will have a 500-student capacity. The district plans to relocate the Eagle Rock Multi-Age program and find a potential home for a satellite transportation center.

“We have an overcrowding problem in our elementary schools,” Ward said. “A fourth comprehensive elementary school will buy time to equalize opportunities for students in schools.”

If the bond is approved, Ward said the district will need to re-evaluate school boundaries for students at local elementary schools to “reset the playing field.”

Improvements to Cedarcrest High School will require $28 million. The funds will go towards expansions in the school commons and central kitchen. There will be upgrades to career and technical education classrooms, as well as art classrooms. 

Tolt Middle School 

upgrades account for $7 million. The district aims to expand the school’s commons and kitchen. Additional upgrades to science classrooms and the athletic room are also priorities for the bond funding.

Nearly $15 million will fund safety and security upgrades to all schools in the district. This includes upgraded security systems, cameras and access to controls. Funding will also allow for the installation of classroom door locks, entry vestibules, fencing, gates and lighting. The district aims to improve cell phone boosters and communication as well.

The district predicts $21 million will be used for maintenance and facility upgrades. This will provide replacements to roofing and siding, sewer and septic lift stations, building control systems and fire alarm panels. This allocation of funds will also support additional parking at Cedarcrest. Additional property may also be purchased by the district with proposed finances.

Each of the projects is anticipated to be completed by 2022 and 2023.

According to the district, the state of Washington does not fund the regular building and maintenance of public schools. Instead, local voters must approve school bonds to secure funding. State law requires bond dollars to be used only for building and maintenance, not classroom operations or salaries.

Bonds are for building and levies are for learning. Bonds are for buildings and other capital investments like land or equipment.  Levies are used for day-to-day school expenditures not covered by the state, but they cannot be used for facilities or capital investment. 

Ward said many people think the bond money immediately goes to the school district once a bond is approved. In actuality, it can take about a year for money to become available. He expects for the funds to be available in 2021. 

The bond election is Feb. 11, 2020.

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