School district sending another bond to voters
April 6, 2011
By Sebastian Moraga
Centerpiece still a new middle school, upgrades
The Snoqualmie Valley School District wants your two cents so they can ask you for two more.
The school bond for a new middle school that failed by one vote in February returns to the ballot April 26 almost untouched.
It differs from February’s proposal by two cents. Interest rates have driven the projected cost to voters from 47 cents per $1,000 of property value to 49 cents. It will last 20 years.
Besides the new school, the bond money would include upgrades such as new boilers at Fall City and North Bend elementaries, a new roof at Two Rivers School, new floors at Opstad Elementary, all-weather fields at Chief Kanim and Twin Falls middle schools and improved sidewalks at Chief Kanim, as well as the introduction of an improved curriculum for science, technology, engineering and math in grades 9-12.
Less than two months since the slimmest loss in the district’s history was certified, district leaders again preached the virtues of the bond.
“We really think it’s a really solid, not only cost-effective solution,” said Ryan Stokes, the district’s finance director, “But it provides a long-term solution for all of our sixth- through 12th-graders.”
A second campaign won’t mean a large expense, said pro-bond activist Cliff Brown, of Valley Voters For Education.
“It will be maybe a couple of thousand dollars,” he said. “It will be pretty frugal.”
Regardless of the April 26 result, the district will turn Snoqualmie Middle School into a ninth-graders’ annex by 2013.
A loss in April means the bond proposal won’t appear again on a ballot until 2012.
Stokes said this would guarantee at least one school year with two middle schools instead of the current three, while the new Snoqualmie Middle School is built on Snoqualmie Ridge.
“It would displace a lot of kids,” Stokes said.
If the bond passes, the district will pursue permits from the city of Snoqualmie and architects will begin designing a new school.
The prospect of state budget cuts won’t impact the maintenance of a new school in the Valley, Stokes said.
The new school will look like Twin Falls Middle School in most areas but the price. This new school will cost millions of dollars more to build.
Stokes said cost increases from when Twin Falls was built, along with work needed at the new middle school’s site, are responsible for the bigger price tag.
“We have three wetlands that we have to work around and a fairly steep slope that we’ll have to do a lot of land work on,” Stokes said.
The ninth-grade annex, not the new school, will effectively be the new campus for the district, Stokes said. This is because the middle school will be a new building for an existing school and most costs there will be transferable.
Running the ninth-grade annex will cost about $650,000 per year in operating costs, he predicted.
After building the new middle school, the district might not need a new school for almost five years, at least.
That depends partly on whether a state mandate for all-day kindergarten gets financing in Olympia, Stokes said.
That mandate is currently a law but the state has no idea how to finance it, the district’s Public Information Coordinator Carolyn Malcolm said. Thus, it may be delayed.
“If that mandate is delayed, that gives us some flexibility,” Stokes said. “We might not have to build another elementary school.”
Malcolm said the county assessor’s office has released information ranking the Snoqualmie Valley School District’s tax rate of $3.88 per $1,000 of assessed value as one of the lowest in the state.
Vashon, Lake Washington, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Seattle and Skykomish have lower rates than Snoqualmie Valley, but the comparison is “not apples to apples,” Malcolm said.
Bellevue, Seattle or Lake Washington school districts have large commercial tax bases. Skykomish has a little more than 60 students, a flyer from the school district stated.
Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or firstname.lastname@example.org.