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$500 million 2020 Snohomish school bond under consideration
May replace six schools

SNOHOMISH — A citizens advisory committee is suggesting a large package of upgrades, including replacing six elementary schools, for the Snohomish School District. Parents may also need to prepare for school boundary changes to rebalance enrollment.
Preliminary rough estimates put future bonds to fund construction in the neighborhood of $500 million. The plan puts the district on course for a bond request in 2020.
Replacing Building C at Snohomish High School, upgrades to AIM High School and adding to Glacier Peak are also on the drawing board of the Citizens Facility Advisory Committee.  A new satellite transportation center and replacing the maintenance center round out the list.
The community based workgroup was convened about a year ago to independently assess the district’s facilities. The group is scheduled to present its final recommendations to the school board May 1.
The bond amounts are “generic ballpark figures used for scenario discussion,” said district spokeswoman Kristin Foley. Actual costs might be lower. “No dollar amounts, budgets, potential bond amounts or specific projects have been finalized,” Foley said.
There are still many unknowns.
What is known is that crowding and outdated facilities mean there is a lack of parity in the education for some local students, according to superintendent Kent Kultgen. Educational parity, he said, would be the focus of any spending on facilities.
Enrollment has increased by about 400 students over the past decade and more growth is expected. Unevenly distributed population growth has also led to imbalances in some school enrollments, so new construction might dovetail with boundary changes.
The committee recommends replacing Cathcart, Cascade View, Dutch Hill, Seattle Hill, Totem Falls and Emerson elementary schools. A combined Emerson and Central Primary campus would be built at Emerson’s current site.
Today, hundreds of students use 63 portable classrooms to stretch capacity at crowded schools. The portables are less conducive to learning and lack water or restrooms, Kultgen said.
In some of the older school buildings, there is no insulation in the walls, and aging heating systems are due for updates.
At schools including Dutch Hill, Cathcart, Totem Falls and Emerson, the gymnasium also serves as the cafeteria, putting it out of commission for P.E. part of every day.
In other projects, a new satellite transportation center would allow buses to be staged at both ends of the district.
Funding options under consideration include a one-time 2020 bond or two bond packages where votes would be four or nine years apart. The tentative amounts range from $485 million to $521 million.
The school district portion of property taxes would top out at $6.39 per $1,000. The lowest cost scenario would max out at $5.87 per $1,000.
In 2019, the rate was $4.89 per $1,000 in assessed value. The rate in 2018 was $6.68.
State property taxes would tack on an estimated additional 91 cents per $1,000 for education funding.
Funding for the transportation and maintenance center projects could come from approximately $20 million the district would receive from the state after constructing new elementary schools, Kultgen said.
Snohomish last undertook significant facilities work through bonds in 2004 and 2008. The work plans for 2012 were shelved in the recession.
The committee envisions construction in two phases. Cathcart, Dutch Hill and Seattle Hill elementary schools might be finished by 2023 with remaining construction complete by 2027. In the longest-term scenario with bond votes in 2020 and 2029, construction would extend to 2031 contingent on passage of a 2029 bond.
School board members will take the summer to weigh their options after the committee submits final recommendations on May 1. Kultgen said the district would offer a community meeting on the proposals before school lets out in June.
“We have to be cognizant of the appetite of the community” regarding bonds, Kultgen said. But also, the community needs to be able to be proud of the education their children receive, the superintendent said. Paying the way for the next generation, as our way was paid: “It’s our duty as citizens.”
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