Issaquah schools nearing completion of levy proposal

June 11, 2013

By Neil Pierson

New: June 11, 11:16 a.m.

Three separate levies under consideration by the Issaquah School Board could mean a more than $150 per year tax hike if approved by voters in February.

The Issaquah School Board on June 5 poured over information that would provide about $247 million between 2015 and 2018 for ongoing maintenance and operations, new buses and improved technology in the Issaquah School District.

The board is likely to approve a levy proposal on June 26 so the Issaquah Education Association and other levy supporters can begin campaigning in August.

The $193 million maintenance and operations levy comprises the biggest chunk of the proposal. It would tax school district property owners between $2.40 and $2.47 per $1,000 assessed valuation. For the owner of a $500,000 home, that equates to about $1,200 per year, an increase of $115 compared to the 2013 rate.

The district’s current levy is scheduled to expire at the end of 2014. The replacement levy would represent the maximum amount allowed under state law.

“This is the lifeblood – it’s a little thing that makes a big difference in a school district,” Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said.

The levy would help pay for many everyday expenses, including salaries for teachers and support staff, extracurricular activities, facility maintenance and student transportation.

A separate, one-year, $1.7 million levy is aimed at the district’s bus fleet. Combined with an estimated $4.5 million in state reimbursements and transportation reserve funds, it would fund the purchase of 71 new buses.

Eight to 10 of the buses would be to accommodate estimated enrollment growth through 2018, said Jake Kuper, the district’s chief of finance and operations.

The levy rate of 9 cents per $1,000 property value equates to $45 per year on a $500,000 home.

The third levy proposal would raise $41.8 million for technology upgrades and another $10.2 million for “critical repairs” in 15 of the district’s 24 schools.

District taxpayers are currently charged 14 cents per $1,000 for technology-related expenses – an amount approved in 2010 – and if the levy is approved, the rate would drop to 11 cents in 2015 before rising to 14 cents again in 2017 and 2018. That equates to $70 per year on a $500,000 home.

A levy development committee of teachers, administrators, students, parents and other community members finalized its recommendations in May.

The committee is pushing to maintain current technology throughout the district and provide several upgrades. Among the upgrades are laptop computers for instructional staff ($1 million), classroom mobile devices ($500,000), and video conferencing capabilities ($200,000).

Electrical upgrades, space renovations, new flooring and roof patching are among the extensive list of recommended repairs. Cougar Ridge ($1.8 million) and Discovery ($1.5 million) elementary schools would receive the largest amount of funding.

 

Reach reporter Neil Pierson at npierson@sammamishreview.com or 392-6434, ext. 242.

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