A bond measure for school construction was passing easily in Puyallup on Tuesday, marking the first time in more than a decade that a bond has succeeded in Pierce County’s second-largest school district.
“We are so happy right now,” said Brian Fox, spokesman for the Puyallup School District. “It’s a great vote of confidence from our community.”
This year’s $292.5 million package includes a new elementary school, to be built on district-owned property on South Hill. In addition, the bond proposal includes replacement of three other elementary schools: Firgrove, Northwood and Sunrise. The bond also contains money to enlarge Pope Elementary.
The new construction will make room for an additional 2,720 students, as well as eliminate 100 of the 122 elementary-level portable classrooms.
The bond measure is projected to increase property tax rates by 2 cents per $1,000 in property value. That would add about $5 to the annual tax bill of a home valued at $250,000.
In a statement, Puyallup Superintendent Tim Yeomans said district officials were “honored” by the support the bond measure received. Unlike school levies, which finance day-to-day operations, school bonds need a 60 percent supermajority to pass.
“Passage of this bond is a milestone which will impact elementary students for years to come,” Yeomans said.
The mood among Puyallup educators Tuesday stood in stark contrast to their perplexed feeling in February 2013. Then, the district won a majority of yes votes but not the necessary supermajority for its $279.6 million bond, while the nearby Tacoma School District reveled after winning 70 percent support for its $500 million bond package.
All told, Puyallup voters had rejected bond proposals four times since 2004, which was the last time they approved a bond measure. Back then, there were about 20,000 students in the district.
In the years since, student enrollment has grown to around 22,250. And district officials are bracing for even more growth as new housing developments are built.
Over the next five years, officials expect to see another 1,600 students, mostly in elementary schools.
For years, the school district has been accommodating growth with portable classrooms. There are now more than 200 portables districtwide.