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Snohomish school bond failure puts district back to drawing board

SNOHOMISH — The $470 million bond that would have paid to replace six elementary schools, and make improvements to transportation and safety for schools, is failing to gain the supermajority needed to pass. 
As of press time Monday, Feb. 17, 53.34 percent of voters were rejecting the bond.  Voter turnout was 32 percent.  
The tax rate for the $470 million capital bond was 98 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In the Snohomish School District, the average assessed home value is $460,000, which would translate as a cost of about $450 per year, for a home of that value. 
In a letter to the community, Snohomish Schools superintendent Kent Kultgen thanked the members of an expansive citizen advisory committee that met over the past year to review buildings in the district and analyze needs with the use of attendance projections, a number regularly used in public school budgeting. The work the group completed fed recommendations and quantified the schools’ bond request. 
“While I am disappointed by the results, we understand the current school funding climate may have made it difficult for some to support a school bond,” Kultgen wrote in a letter to the community, posted on the district’s website. 
It is unclear what the path forward is, but without funding, the ambitious replacements and upgrades for the district will not move ahead. 
On the wish list were districtwide safety enhancements slated to begin right after bond-passage. Safety and security upgrades included a new radio system, redesigned vestibules in secondary schools that provided better view and flow of people entering the schools, upgrade and some replacement of camera systems, and emergency responder antennas at secondary schools.
Construction projects that are now delayed were already pushed out for start-dates in the fall of 2023 and included replacement of a total of six elementary schools. Four would start in 2023 and additional replacements were planned for two to three years later. 
“Without capital bonds, we cannot fund major construction improvements that extend the life of our aging school buildings, address overcrowding, or reduce our reliance on portable classrooms,” Kultgen wrote. 
In the fall of 2026, the district had hoped to combine Central Primary and Emerson Elementary into a primary education center, creating a single site for early learning students and teachers. The opportunity for shared resources and better communication would be two of the benefits of that project.
Transportation was a $10.6 million portion of the bond-ask, and safety enhancements were $4 million. 
The timeline for transportation improvements had a start-date of 2027, the district’s website says. Maintenance and transportation changes were planned to begin in the fall of 2027 for a proposed project cost of $10.55 million. Glacier Peak High School would have replaced some portables with new classroom space. AIM High School, the district’s alternative school, would have had its Parkway Campus improved. 
If the district chooses to request funding at a later date, it will be determined in another process that has not yet begun.
Go to www.sno.wednet.edu/Page/4278 for information on projects included in the failing bond.  

 

  

 

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