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Districts push for bond, levy support ahead of special election on Tuesday

Inglemoor High School in the Northshore District would get a new performing arts and instructional building if voters approve the bond issue. (Photo: KOMO News)

KING COUNTY, Wash. -- Next Tuesday, voters in many school districts across the region will make some important decisions about multi-million dollar bonds and levies.

With property taxes going up, some voters are wondering why districts are asking for so much money.

The Northshore School District has seen unprecedented growth at many of its campuses in a short amount of time.

"We’ve had 700 students more this year than last year, which is the single largest year-over-year growth in the history of the Northshore School District," said Superintendent Michelle Reid.

The growth is a major reason why the district is asking voters to approve a $275 million dollar bond during the special election on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

If passed, the money would be used to build a new K-5 school on Maltby Road, add about 30 classrooms between Skyview Middle School and Canyon Creek Elementary School, and build a new performing arts and instructional building at Inglemoor High School. Safety and security upgrades would be made at all of the district's schools, as well.

The district is also asking voters to approve two levies: The Educational Programs and Operations Levy focuses on special education, extra-curricular activities, and basic needs the state doesn't fund and the Technoloy Levy focuses on technology improvements and would provide access to 1:1 computers/tablets for all grades, according to the district.

"We are not increasing taxes. We are just asking for continuation of what we have always done," said parent and Northshore School Board President Sandy Hayes. "So, all three of these measures are renewals of existing ones. So, we are renewing what we already do. They’re not new."

In the Lake Washington School District, there are challenges with space just about everywhere you look inside Alcott Elementary that force staff to get creative. The school currently has more than 850 students. It was designed for hundreds less, school leaders said.

"Everything has to do with space. The things we deal with are much different than a school that has 500 kiddos. It has to do with the 11 buses we have at the end of the day. The 12 portables that are full everyday with kids," said Principal Jon Hedin. "We adjust, we adapt, but like I said… we think we can do better if we had more space."

Big growth at Alcott Elementary and elsewhere is a major reason voters in the Lake Washington School District are being asked to approve a $299 million bond in the up-coming special election.

If passed, the money would be used to remodel/replace and enlarge Alcott Elementary School and Kamiakan Middle School, build a new elementary school in the district's Kirkland region, build a new choice high school in Sammamish, build an addition to Lake Washington High School, buy land for growth, and fund other projects that would benefit special education programs.

The Lake Washington School District is also asking voters to approve two replacement levies: The Educational Programs and Operations Levy and the Capital Projects Levy.

"Every week we have families enrolling, so our staff… they’re resilient. They work hard, they care," said Hedin. "But yeah, it is pretty crazy at times when you think about the amount of growth and where to put people."

The two districts and many others across the state are in a period of uncertainty right now because of a plan passed by state lawmakers last year designed to better fund education.

The plan raised the state property tax rate by about $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.

In King County, the taxes will increase about 17 percent on average countywide this year, according to the King County Assessor's Office.

"What we don’t know about that money that’s goingbe raised in our community is whether it even comes back to our community. There’s been a lot of confusion, I think, around the state about how we’re going to redistribute the money that’s collected from the state’s portion of the property taxes," said Reid. "Currently, the state is not even adequately funding much less amply funding basic education. Things like technology, core 24, security and safety, the class sizes… none of those are being satisfactory funded by the state."

While districts like Northshore wait to see what the state does, Reid told KOMO News that basic needs continue along with the need to keep up with growth.

In some cases, the tax rate for levies designed to help fund basic needs for districts could actually go down.

"We’ve worked very hard as a district to maintain or in this case lower our tax rates per thousand for the initiatives we’re putting on the ballot," Reid said.

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