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ESD proposed levy sees $420 million decrease after failure to pass bond last year

By Erin Freeman  |  Lynnwood Times Staff

The Edmonds School District (ESD) will be asking voters this April to consider approving funding a capital levy to upgrade buildings, address capacity challenges and improve existing facilities. 

With a price tag of $180 million, the six-year funding would designate a total of $30 million per year to replace Spruce Elementary and Oak Heights Elementary while maintaining existing school buildings and complete districtwide renewal and upgrade projects. 

Harmony Weinburg, the spokesperson for ESD, says that the improvement will foster learning, academic growth, critical thinking, equitable access and overall student success.

“We believe this capital levy is critical and will address the following needs: asset preservation; safety, security and accessibility; capacity challenges; and replace school buildings well past their lifespans,” ESD Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said.

A tax levy is essentially the property taxes a school district collects to balance its budget, after accounting for additional revenue sources including state aid. Yet, Washington state does not provide local schools with funding for technology or capital facilities, which is why it seeks the approval of levies so they can provide students with maintained buildings through improvements and renovations, bridging the gap. 

$1.7 billion in capital needs throughout the district was previously identified by theESD Facilities Advisory Committee, determining last year to prioritize $600M of projects for the February 2020 bond- which voters turned down, with only about 56% supporting it. The bond needed a 60% majority to pass. 

Following the disapproval of the bond, the Edmonds School District board held a study session on August 4 to examine capital funding options and to review capital facility priorities, said Weinburg. 

The board then reconsidered the unfunded projects, the size of the earlier measure, and the impact of any new measure on future tax rates continued Weinburg. Upon review of the outstanding projects, the board decided to first prioritize the completion of Spruce Elementary. They then prioritized the replacement of Oak Heights Elementary based on age, condition, and its capacity constraints. 

The board also reviewed proposed asset preservation projects (boilers, heating/ventilation, roofs, ADA requirements, exterior wall improvements) and interim capacity improvements including relocatable. The total of these projects is estimated at $180 million.  

If approved, by voters on April 27, the estimated tax rate for ESD will be $3.36 per $1,000. 

“This is lower than what voters have approved in the past* and would maintain a steady local education tax rate over the next four years,” said the district. 

The 2020 rate was $3.71 and the 2018 rate was $4.76.  Voters should expect further information about the proposed levy in the coming weeks.

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