Northshore School District will ask voters to consider three propositions that would replace previously passed measures used to maintain basic education support, in addition to building and technological improvements, for a special election in February 2022.
“[The] need is great, and we want to be very cognizant of what resources we ask the community for,” Northshore School Board director Amy Cast said. “The fact that we were able to put together a project list that will touch eight buildings, and yet, still lower the tax rate for our communities is just incredible work.”
Initially approved by voters in 2018, the Educational Programs and Operations Levy is set to expire in 2022. According to recent proposition, the four-year levy covers expenses for day-to-day operations not funded by the state such as mental health counselors, special education programs and academic support for students receiving highly capable services.
The Northshore School Board approved to put the Educational Programs and Operations Levy proposition on the ballot in a 5-0 vote during a council meeting on Oct. 11.
Director Sandy Hayes said other programs impacted by the proposal would include music classes, drama and athletics. About $20 million, or one-third, of the funding would be allocated to special education, she added.
“It’s good to see all of this come to fruition,” director Jacqueline McGourty said. “It’s also a little sobering to look at how much of the cost of educating our students is not paid for by the state of Washington.”
About 30% of the district’s budget relies on levies and bonds, she said. The state does not cover costs for student transportation or facility maintenance, McGourty added.
Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid said the assessed evaluation for homes in the Northshore School District increased more than staff members had anticipated. Typically, she said, the value will rise about 3-6%. However, the assessed evaluation rose by 13% this year.
If approved, property taxes would be collected at a rate of $1.40 per thousand dollars of assessed evaluation to fund up to $62.5 million in 2023. In 2024, the levy would collect $64.9 million, followed by $67.5 million in 2025, and another $70.2 million in 2026. The rate will remain the same all four years, Reid said.
For a home assessed at $1 million, the cost of taxes would be $1,400 per year. In comparison, the 2018 levy collected $1.50 for every thousand dollars of assessed value each year.
The second proposition, which was approved by the board in a 5-0 vote, would allow the district to make technological improvements such as purchasing hardware and licensing software. According to the proposal, the levy would also fund training for students and staff members on using and installing certain online applications.
To provide equal opportunity for students, the proposal said, the district allows students to borrow school-owned devices and software.
“This isn’t just about computer hardware,” director David Cogan said. “A lot of it is about training for our students and teachers.”
The levy would collect another $20 million in property taxes each year from 2023-26. The proposed tax rate would be $0.45 per thousand dollars of assessed value in 2023, followed by a $0.43 tax rate in 2024, a $0.42 rate in 2025, and a $0.40 rate in 2026.
Board members also approved, 5-0, to send a Capital Projects Bond measure to voters. The bond would direct funding toward improvements for facilities across the district. Cogan said projects could include adding more learning space while reducing the number of portable classrooms by one-third.
The measure would also make repairs and improve security systems for older school buildings, stated the proposal. A task force has worked over the last two years to prioritize the projects that could be funded by the bond, according to a news release from the district.
With a projected tax rate lower than in 2018, the proposal states, the bond would allow NSD to borrow $425 million for capital projects.
As a part of the plan, several schools within the district would receive renovations and additions such as Crystal Springs, Fernwood, Kenmore, Maywood Hills and Woodin elementary schools. According to the proposal, Leota Middle School and Inglemoor High School would begin phase one of “replacement” for aging infrastructure.
If passed, the bond would also fund the addition of a classroom at Sorenson Early Childcare Center. The proposal said additional funds would contribute to improvements for outdoor learning spaces, playfields, tracks, tennis courts and inclusive playgrounds.
A rise in enrollment numbers drives the construction of new facilities to comply with classroom size limits set by the state, Cogan said. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he added, enrollment has relatively stayed the same.
“We have time to focus on dollars that will bring some of our buildings up to a more modern standard,” Cogan said.
To learn more about the funding proposals, visit the NSD website at nsd.org/bondlevy.