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Superintendent presents on 2020 Snohomish school bond plan

Snohomish School District Superintendent Kent Kultgen at his desk in August.

SNOHOMISH — The school district is gearing up to ask voters for a $470 million capital bond, set to appear on the February ballot.
Kent Kultgen, superintendent of Snohomish School District, presented details of the bond proposal to the City Council at its Nov. 19 meeting.
The district’s near-10,000 attendance-level has remained steady in the past decade, he told the council. School districts sometimes fluctuate in attendance numbers, a data item that is directly tied to state funding. Public schools are funded based on headcounts, as well as levies and bonds. Levies pay for operations, and bonds are for capital projects.
“I liken a bond to a mortgage on your house,” Kultgen said.
The bond, if passed with a supermajority vote of 60 percent, will rebuild aging elementary schools, and kick off projects that enhance safety and security in all schools. The district also hopes to reduce the use of portable classrooms, a stop-gap solution for school districts statewide when awaiting the funding to build more durable structures.
The bond request in February includes money to replace Cascade, Dutch Hill, Seattle Hill and Cathcart elementary schools, which are planned for replacement in 2023. Replacing Emerson and Totem Falls elementary schools are planned by 2026. Each elementary replacement costs $69 to $72 million.  
Also included is a $4 million expenditure for districtwide safety and security.
The district put out a survey to measure perceptions from a pool of potential voters, and 516 people responded. He said 61 percent of the respondents “didn’t have any kids in schools,” a perspective the district needs to test before putting the bond to voters.
Seven in ten recognized a need for more funding for schools; the survey also showed that respondents are “tax-sensitive,” with more than 60 percent saying taxes are too high.
Kultgen said 74 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied to very satisfied with schools in Snohomish, a district that serves 9,800 students. The school district has three high schools, two middle schools, 10 elementary schools, two preschool programs, and a connector for homeschooled students.  
Priorities for the bond were formed by a Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC). The group is made up of 35 community members who met 26 times over 50 weeks, he said. Data for their meetings included a review of school buildings, as well as an exploration of demographic and enrollment projections. They took that information and analyzed it, to prioritize needs.
Voters approved a $141.5 million bond in 2004 and a $261.6 bond in May 2008. Kultgen told the council that the schools have not asked for a bond since 2008, with its final phase stalled due to the Great Recession.
Kristin Foley, school district spokeswoman, said phase three of the capital improvement plan was not investigated or considered by the district as the economic conditions of that time did not allow for a third phase to be put before the voters.
In 2011, Riverview and Machias elementary schools re-opened after being fully replaced. In 2012, the district completed projects including renovation of Snohomish High School and Centennial Middle School. Also in 2012, Valley View Middle was replaced, and re-opened. In 2014, funds from the last bond were used to construct the aquatic center. Other capital improvements were also made with those same funds.
Bond information is available at The district’s Capital Facilities Plan is also posted.



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