Three school levy proposals are headed toward voters

January 7, 2014

Voters will have the chance to approve or deny three levy proposals the Issaquah School District is placing on the Feb. 11 ballot.

The district is seeking the renewal of its existing maintenance and operations levy, which provides a large chunk of employee salaries not covered by the state.

By Greg Farrar Construction, funded by the previous bond issue, continues Jan. 3 on a classroom and library wing at Liberty High School.

By Greg Farrar
Construction, funded by the previous bond issue, continues Jan. 3 on a classroom and library wing at Liberty High School.

The district is also asking for a one-year, $1.7 million transportation levy, and a four-year, $52 million capital levy aimed at improving technology and making key repairs to facilities.

If all three levies are approved, the total tax rate for a district property owner would rise 8 cents to $4.83 per $1,000 from 2015-18. That equates to a $40 annual increase on a $500,000 home.

Bonds and levies: the differences

Jake Kuper, chief of finance and operations for the Issaquah School District, said it’s common for people to confuse bonds and levies.
“The easiest way to remember the difference is bonds are for buildings and levies are for learning,” he said.
Because the state doesn’t fund regular maintenance costs for existing schools, or construction costs for new schools, districts like Issaquah rely on voters to approve bonds. Similar to a mortgage, Kuper said, bonds are paid over a long-term period, typically 20 years. State law requires bond dollars to be spent on capital projects, like new construction or major maintenance, not classroom operations.
Levy dollars “help districts close the gap between what the state pays for education and the actual cost,” Kuper said. Issaquah’s current maintenance and operation levy pays for 21 percent of classroom costs.
Capital levies pay for technology — including hardware, software and infrastructure — and repairs to items like heating and cooling systems, roofs and security systems.
Like classroom costs, the state doesn’t fully fund transportation needs, and a levy like Issaquah’s one-year, $1.7 million proposal helps districts pay for new bus purchases, Kuper said.

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Old year brought new problems

December 31, 2013

Top news stories of the year

Many new things happened in Issaquah this past year and not all of them were greeted warmly.

While most people saw new parks and a new mayor as positive changes for the city, contention rose around new technology, new development standards, new fish ladders, new plastic bag ordinances and a newly legalized drug.

Much of what happened in 2013 spells more growth for Issaquah in the years to come and even more changes ahead. The year 2014 can learn much from the lessons taught by this past year of transformation.

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December 31, 2013

2014 goals for a better Issaquah

The Issaquah Press presents its annual list of goals for the Issaquah area. A few are repeats from last year, still waiting to be accomplished but worthy of repeating.

February elections — The trio of school district levies, the Klahanie annexation decision and the repeal of the plastic bag ban are all up for a vote. The only good thing about the dismal turnout of voters in the November election is the easy assurance of getting enough voters to validate the school levy election. Let’s hope Issaquah voters get back on track and return their ballots in higher numbers in 2014.

Central Issaquah Plan — The redevelopment plan is in place and developers now know how to maximize the use of their property. One project has already been proposed. It will be interesting to see what other plans come forward and whether the CIP is achieving its goals.

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Letters to the Editor

December 31, 2013

School levies

Education — no better return on your investment

As we enter a new year, Issaquah School District voters have a unique investment opportunity.

On Feb. 11, the entire community will have the opportunity to vote yes on a three-part Issaquah district school-funding ballot, comprised of the following items:

  • Four-year Maintenance and Operations Levy in the following amounts: $44.5 million in 2015, $48 million in 2016, $51.5 million in 2017, and $54 million in 2018.
  •  One-year Transportation Levy in the amount of $1.7 million in 2015.
  • Four-year Critical Repairs/Technology levy in the following amounts: $11.4 million in 2015, $12.05 million in 2016, nearly $13.6 million in 2017, and nearly $14.9 million in 2018.

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Council supports school district levies

December 24, 2013

Three Issaquah School District levies will come before voters Feb. 11. After a public hearing during its Dec. 16 regular meeting, the Issaquah City Council unanimously voted to support the ballot propositions.

Superintendent Ron Thiele and Issaquah School Board member Anne Moore gave a description of how much the levies would cost the taxpayers and how the district would spend the money.

“These three levies are absolutely critical to the level of service in our schools,” Moore said. “We have excellent Issaquah schools that are part of the community. It’s really a win-win for the city and the schools to help maintain the school level that we have.”

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Schools plan future around expected growth

December 17, 2013

Officials are hoping to break ground on the new Issaquah Middle School next summer, and the replacement building will look much different than what was first envisioned.

The city of Issaquah’s 30-year plan for its central business district is expected to add more than 7,700 residential units, and it’s forcing the Issaquah School District to think more about long-term impacts to its facilities.

Steve Crawford, the district’s director of capital projects, told school board members Dec. 11 that if downtown Issaquah grows as projected in the Central Issaquah Plan in the next three decades, it would add an estimated 2,850 students to the school district’s enrollment. That represents a 15 percent increase over the district’s current population of 18,400 students.

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Clark Elementary Gingerbread House Party / Dec. 12, 2013

December 16, 2013

Public invited to hear school district propositions

December 10, 2013

The Issaquah City Council will hold a public hearing at its Dec. 16 meeting to consider supporting the Issaquah School District’s three ballot propositions that will come before voters during the Feb. 11, 2014, election.

The school district is looking to pass a four-year, $198 million maintenance and operations levy that would replace an expiring levy; a one-year, $1.7 million transportation levy to purchase new buses; and a four-year, $51.9 million capital projects and critical repairs levy aimed at technology, safety and security issues.

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Liz Wilhelm to coordinate drug free grant program

December 10, 2013

Liz Wilhelm has been selected as the project coordinator for the federal Drug Free Community grant awarded to the Issaquah Drug Free Community Coalition and the city of Issaquah in September.

The grant, which will bring $125,000 per year for up to 10 years to the Issaquah School District service area, is aimed at reducing teen alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug abuse. Hiring a local project coordinator to oversee a coalition work plan and funding expenditures is a requirement of the grant.

Contributed Liz Wilhelm (right), new project coordinator for the federal grant awarded to the Drug Free Community Coalition in Issaquah, stands with coalition Chairwoman Katie Moeller.

Liz Wilhelm (right), new project coordinator for the federal grant awarded to the Drug Free Community Coalition in Issaquah, stands with coalition Chairwoman Katie Moeller.

Wilhelm, an instructor at the University of Washington and Seattle Central Community College, has an extensive background in substance abuse prevention. Previously, she served as project coordinator for a Drug Free Community grant in Kitsap County. She authored Seattle Central’s prevention curriculum.

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Clark, Creekside honored as schools of distinction

December 3, 2013

The Issaquah School District had two schools — Clark Elementary and Creekside Elementary — earn 2013 School of Distinction awards in October.

The awards were given to 55 elementary schools, 24 middle/junior high schools and 23 high schools throughout the state.

To attain the honor, schools must demonstrate outstanding student performance and improvements over a five-year period. Student achievement in both reading and math must be above the state median. Both math and reading improvements must be among the top 5 percent of the state’s schools.

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