Voters easily approve $219 million school bond

April 24, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Issaquah School District voters overwhelmingly approved a $219 million bond to fund construction and renovation projects on campuses across the district.

In the April 17 special election, 70 percent of voters — encompassing more than 15,000 yes votes of out more than 22,000 ballots cast — approved the measure. (The measure needed to receive a 60 percent yes vote from a minimum turnout of 12,229 voters.)

Despite the passage of the bond, local homeowners will pay less in property taxes to the schools than they do now because a previous bond issue is set to expire this year.

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, a homeowner with a home valued at $500,000, property taxes will drop by $215 annually, said Jake Kuper, district chief of finance and operations.

King County Elections is scheduled to certify the election results April 27.

Continuing renovation at Liberty High School is a priority as school district officials continue planning to carry out the capital improvements projects outlined in the bond measure.

Steve Crawford, district director of capital projects, said setting priorities and construction schedules is the initial step. Phase 2 reconstruction at Liberty is likely to be at the top of the district’s to-do list, he added.

The bond measure attracted broad support from community and government leaders. City Council members in Issaquah and Sammamish endorsed the proposal. So did the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce.

Phase 2 at Liberty could include revamping the commons, relocating and modernizing facilities for the culinary arts program, and reworking some classrooms. Plans also call for an auxiliary gym and renovation of the locker rooms.

The existing roof, outside of the modernization areas, would be repaired or replaced.

Discussing Phase 2 prior to the election, Liberty Principal Mike DeLetis called a targeted area of the campus as “the bunker” because the classrooms there lack windows.

The total cost for Phase 2 of Liberty’s remodeling is estimated at $39.7 million, not including $4.8 million for rebuilding the outdoor stadium.

The pace of the sale of construction bonds influences the schedule for coming capital improvement work, Crawford said.

Besides the work at Liberty and the new athletic fields, the capital improvement package includes the rebuilding and relocation of Clark Elementary, Issaquah Middle and Tiger Mountain Community High schools at a cost of $108.6 million.

Sunny Hills Elementary School also would be rebuilt for $27.1 million.

District officials and bond supporters repeatedly have pointed out the buildings are the oldest in the district.

The capital improvement list also includes a lot of maintenance and renovation work at a vast majority of district schools.

During the bond campaign, district plans for athletic field improvements attracted attention. Each district middle school is in line to receive artificial turf fields and rubberized running tracks.

The schools likely will be done one or two at a time, Crawford said.

Issaquah Schools Foundation Executive Director Robin Callahan said she has been surprised repeatedly by the generosity and commitment of local residents to education.

For some time 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 pro-bond campaign, said the voting shows residents have faith in the schools.

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

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