Issaquah School District voters pass $219 million bond issue

April 17, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

UPDATED — 9:55 p.m. April 17, 2011

The results are preliminary, far from final. But the question seems pretty much decided.

According to unofficial results from King County, local residents are voting heavily in favor of allowing the Issaquah School District to sell $219 million in bonds to fund capital improvement projects throughout the district.

Numbers issued by King County at  just after 8 p.m. Tuesday show the bond issue is passing easily with 13,476 votes in favor compared to 6,006 votes against, or 69.1 percent to 30.8 percent.

The Issaquah school issue needs to win the approval of a supermajority of 60 percent of those who vote in order to pass. A minimum of 12,229 voters also had to cast their ballots.

Prior to the election, bond backers said based on the number of registered voters expected to cast ballots, the bond issue would  need about 14,000 “yes” votes in order to win approval.

At a gathering of school board members, administrators and school supporters on election night, many were quick to note the 14,000 vote threshold had nearly been reached. They also were happily talking about the 69 percent passage rate. School board member Brian Deagle said he was both suprised and not surprised by how easily the issue seemed to be winning approval. He said he knows plenty of people still are struggling in the current economy.

At the same time, Deagle described Issaquah School District residents as persons who have always backed their schools. For her part, Robin Callahan, executive director of the Issaquah Schools Foundation, agreed.

In her job at the non-profit that supports district activities, Callahan said she has been surprised again and again at the generosity and committment of local residents to education. She said district students might not realize how lucky they are.

For sometime after initial results were released, Superintendent Steve Rasmussen was handing out certificates, plants and other small gifts to bond supporters, especially various representatives of the Volunteers for Issaquah Schools, the community group that ran the bond campaign. Lesley Austin, co-chairwoman of the campaign,vsaid the voting shows residents have faith in the schools.

“It shows a high level of confidence in the district,” she said.

During the campaign, bond supporters were quick to point out that even with passage of the bond, local homeowners would pay less in property taxes to the schools than they do presently. That’s because a previous bond issue is set to expire this year.

According to the district, the retirement of the earlier bond will drop the local tax rate from $4.85 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $4.05. Passage of the new bond would put the rate at $4.42.

Compared to present rates, for a person with a home valued at $500,000, even with the new bond, property taxes will drop by $215 annually said Jake Kuper, district chief of finance and operations. He was quick to add taxes would drop by an additional $215 if the new bond does not pass.

As approved by the Issaquah School Board, bond sale passage would finance the intermingled rebuilding and relocation of three schools: Clark Elementary, Issaquah Middle and Tiger Mountain Community High. Price: $108.6 million. Sunny Hills Elementary also would be rebuilt at a cost of $27.1 million. Officials and supporters repeatedly have pointed out these buildings are the oldest in the district.

Liberty High School also would be the recipient of some major reconstruction at a cost of $44.5 million, including $4.8 million for revamping the school’s athletic fields. Including the plans for Liberty’s field, school officials hope to spend $18.3 million on athletic fields at the district’s three high schools as well as placing artificial turf at five middle schools, not including fields at the relocated Issaquah Middle School.

In order to be counted in the special election, ballots needed to post marked by April 17, the day of the election. Ballot drop off boxes were available until 8 p.m. April 17 at Issaquah City Hall and other locations set up by county election officials. Further results in the election will be posted at 4:30 p.m. each afternoon in the coming days on the King County Elections website.

Election results are scheduled to be certified April 27, according to Kim Van Ekstrom, chief communications officer for the county elections department.

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4 Responses to “Issaquah School District voters pass $219 million bond issue”

  1. Rolf Bernhard on April 18th, 2012 8:11 am

    Being a senior citizen and being retired I cannot see the need for better fields as opposed to matters that have an impact on our Childrens education. We keep spending more money on capital improvements but our education continues to suffer and be rated less then other countries with less investing in education. Our taxes keep increasing and bonds keep passing so I as many others will have to move out of King county and Issaquah since we are on fixed income. It is not right for one to own his own home but still has to move because real estate taxes and bonds will push us out.

  2. Kevin on April 18th, 2012 11:28 am

    I would love to have been able to vote “yes” on the school levy—except I saw in Issaquah Press how much would have gone towards renovating the *stadium*.

    I understand the need for our kids to have safe buildings in which to attend class. A stadium, on the other hand, has little practical use beyond sporting events.

    Our society is too fixated on sports as it is. The school district should reallocate whatever is to be spent on stadium renovations towards furthering the education of the students who attend Issaquah schools.

    And I have to echo Mr. Bernhard’s comments. In this economy, we can barely afford to pay our property taxes already (I’ve had to empty my IRA to keep current; I don’t know what we’re going to do come October)…

  3. Katie on April 18th, 2012 5:48 pm

    Folks will be glad to know that property taxes will not increase as a result of this bond passing:

    How will the 2012 bond impact taxes?
    * In relation to current tax expenditures, residents can expect to see a decrease in local school taxes even if the bond is approved-for example, the owner of a $500,000 home would pay about $215 less per year.
    * How? Recognizing the current economic climate, the new bond package ($219 million spread over eight years) is structured to be about half as much as the bond debt retiring in 2012. The retiring bond debt will drop the tax rate from $4.85 to $4.05 per $1,000 of assessed property value; approval of the new bond will result in an estimated $4.42 tax rate.


  4. Some Dude on April 19th, 2012 8:30 am

    Rolf and Kevin- thanks to the 1% rule passed a number of years ago, your overall non-Federal tax load- property, sales, fees- is the lowest it’s been (in real dollars) since 1962. Washington has one of the lowest overall tax rates (again, looking at ALL the non-Federal taxes) in the US. As in, down there with TX and AL. That’s why the legislature can’t figure out how to pay for education and infrastructure, and why local dollars are needed to keep our kids competitive with other states. But if you think Cle Elum is going to be better, I look forward in a few years to your letters to the North Kittitas County Tribune bemoaning the lack of decent roads and flat housing values.

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