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Everett’s $330m school bond to address growth fails to pass

EVERETT — While a majority of voters said yes to a school construction bond, it was not enough to meet a minimum threshold for approval.
A separate request to continue education levy dollars flowing passed last week.
The construction bond package that would have built a new fourth high school in south Everett had 55 percent of the vote at press time Monday, missing the 60 percent supermajority the $330 million bond required to pass.
The school district doesn’t appear to be rushing out with an April ballot measure to try again.
“At this point there is no backup plan” to set an April bond measure, school district spokeswoman Leanna Albrecht said last week.
A “what-if”-style backup plan to hand to the board had not been formally developed, Albrecht wrote in a follow-up email this week.
The deadline to put out an April ballot measure is Friday, Feb. 23, and the school board is not regularly scheduled to meet until March 6. No emergency board meeting was scheduled as of press time Monday morning.
That makes this year’s next opportunities in August and November.
School administrators predicted last year that the state’s property
tax hike for education could shellshock voters against local measures. In Everett, the school district staggered out the first four years of future bond payments in attempt to keep a stable $5.86 per $1,000 rate through 2022.
Albrecht said, though, that the state’s hike and its uses may have created confusion across the region and may have impacted
measures like Everett’s.
The school district counts a fourth high school as a critical need for the south end as Jackson is using a parking lot of portable classrooms.  
So what next? Using boundary adjustments to re-balance enrollment among the three high schools is a “serious question” to consider with no fourth high school in the school in the pipeline, Albrecht said. More portables is another option.
Jackson has about 2,100 students and has 17 portable classrooms. By 2024, the district thinks Jackson would swell to 2,400 students without a new high school.
The district estimates by 2026 it will have 1,600 more students overall.
“We know growth is coming,” Albrecht said.
“We continue to be the fastest growing district in the county and will continue to add portables to accommodate growth but would prefer to educate kids in permanent classrooms,” Albrecht shared from school board president Caroline Mason, who also helped co-lead the vote yes campaign.
The new high school is a huge ask that could continue to get bigger as market-wide construction prices escalate in the Northwest.
In 2014, the district tried to include the fourth high school in an almost $259 million bond that did not pass. It asked for a similar bond measure that April which also failed
with about 58 percent of the vote. A smaller 2016 bond package that passed left
out the high school.
Voter turnout for February’s measures was approximately 30 percent ­— 23,890 people — in the Everett School District.
“We worked to provide clear communication of the bond projects and impacts for our overall community,” Albrecht wrote regarding the message efforts. When asked about north Everett potentially not having something to gain in the bond: “Bond projects would have benefited students across the district.”
“Increases in assessed property values, the state school tax rate increase and concerns about those impacts on taxes added to concern and confusion also had an impact.”

  

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