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Issaquah schools to bring forth $533.5 million bond

Sammamish Review of Sammamish, Washington

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The Issaquah School District is asking voters to approve a $533.5 million bond sale that will appear on the April 26, 2016 ballot.

The Issaquah School Board unanimously approved the issue at its meeting Oct. 28 following months of discussion.

If approved, the money will go toward a fourth comprehensive high school at a cost of $120 million, along with the district's sixth middle school with a price tag of $74 million.

The district also is hoping for two new elementary schools — numbers 16 and 17 — with price tags of $36.5 million and $38 million.

Property acquisition for those projects is expected to run $97 million.

The bond sale will add nothing to district property tax rates, according to information on the school website. However, as previous bonds and debt are paid off, tax rates will not go down.

At present, tax rates sit at about $4.10 per thousand in property valuation With no new bond sale taking place, that figure begins to drop sharply over the next few years. By 2019, the figure dips to $3.50 by 2019. If voters approve the bond sale, taxes to pay off that debt will keep the tax rate between approximately $4 and $4.10 through 2034. At that point, if no new further school issues are passed between now and then, the rate drops precipitously in 2035 to about $2.40.

The chart on the district website last week showed rates for bonds of $518.5 million and $432.5 million, as well as the board-approved issue. The $432.5 million bond was an option considered and rejected by a Bond Committee.

The committee actually approved a $518.5 million issue, but the Issaquah School Board decided to follow the recommendation of Superintendent Ron Thiele, said L. Michelle, district spokeswoman.

"The superintendent wanted to build in some additional capacity for inflation," Michelle said.

At the board meeting

Oct. 28, Thiele said the complete build out of 14 projects that would be funded by the bond would take several years. Michelle said the additional bond dollars did not hike tax rates more than a slight amount.

Besides four new buildings, some of the planned projects include a $71 million rebuild of Pine Lake Middle School. An upgrade of Beaver Lake Middle School would run a mere $8.5 million. Five existing elementary schools would be revamped at a cost of $9 million or $7 million each. The central administration building would get a revamp and expansion with a price tag of $7.5 million.

The bond proceeds also would fund $6 million in portable classrooms, $6 million for project management and a $12 million reserve or contingency fund.

Michelle declined to talk about the potential location of any of the new schools, even to say whether they would sit in Issaquah or Sammamish. The schools will go where there is demand, she said, but to identify a specific area would be to invite land price hikes or get the district into a race with developers.

The district is going to continue experiencing growth of about 300 to 400 students every year for the foreseeable future, which creates the need for expanding district buildings, Thiele said at the Oct. 28 board meeting. The board is trying to plan not only for additional students, but also to make room for all-day kindergarten and state-mandated smaller class sizes, said Issaquah School Board President Anne Moore.

The argument for the bond sale is simple, added Board member Suzanne Weaver. The district needs new schools and more classrooms, she said.

"It's pretty straight forward," Weaver added.

For more information, visit the school website at Click on the "2016 School Bond" link at the right-hand top of the home page.

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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