Ballots for the proposed bond for the Peninsula School District have been mailed to voters and are due by April 24.
The Peninsula School District is proposing a $220-million bond to make significant upgrades and to build a new school in the upcoming years.
About a year ago, group of school staff, parents and community leaders were brought together by the district to create a facilities planning committee. The committee’s job was to find what needed to be fixed and updated within the district. The group toured buildings, talked to contractors, assessed data and concluded Peninsula School District needed more than $600 million for repairs, updates and more. Just over $95 million of those estimated costs would go toward preventative maintenance, which includes:
- Upgrades to interior and exterior finishes.
- Health, safety and security upgrades.
- Mechanical and electrical improvements.
- Upgrades in technology and infrastructure.
- Provide improvements that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Expanding cafeteria and commons areas.
- Site improvements such as fire suppression measures.
- New roofs, paint and HVAC systems.
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In the 2015-16 school year, the district gained 150 new kindergarteners, and another 150 kindergarteners joined the ranks in the 2016-17 school year , according to the district. Some students are using portable classrooms to deal with overcrowding and lack of space, but not all of the portables have amenities such as bathrooms. High school theaters and science labs are being used for general education courses as well.
Bonds and levies are not a popular topic with taxpayers within the Peninsula School District. The district has attempted to pass a bond or a combination of the two in 2007, 2011 and 2014, but all failed. The most recent bond that passed was in 2003 — 15 years ago — and will be paid off by the district in early 2019.
Because of the lack of bond and levy measures, a grassroots campaign, Stand Up for Peninsula Schools, believe the school district has not been able to serve the community to its fullest extent. Stand Up for Peninsula Schools are the official "yes" group for the bond and have worked with other volunteers and the district to help spread information about the bond in hopes to garner support.
A group of Gig Harbor residents also filed as the official opposition against the ballot measure. Ken Manning, Dan White and Randy Boss formed the group, Responsible Taxation of Citizens and had a statement placed in the official April voter pamphlet.
In its press release, the Responsible Taxation of Citizens proposed a four-year, $50-million capital levy, saying a levy would not cost any interest. The group makes a few claims about the district’s bond plan, including:
- Only 15 percent of over $200 million in maintenance and operations levies from the past years went towards maintenance of school buildings.
- Responsible Taxation of Citizens says the next levy of $20 million should go towards maintenance because the McCleary decision “will fund teachers’ salaries.”
- The bond ballot measure provides for “six years of spending and 23 years of paying,” by incurring $132 million in interest charges. The press release said only one-third of the $220 million will be needed in the first two years.
Superintendent Rob Manahan said if the bond passes, the school’s tax rate is expected to go down by $3. The estimated bond increase of $45 per $100,000 assessed home value will be offset by a $48 reduction in the existing levy, Manahan said, which will create a net decrease of $3. The school tax rate of $229 per $100,000 assessed value will remain the lowest in Pierce County, just below Fife School District at $409 per $100,000.
The district says the $220-million bond, if passed, would be used on the following projects;
- Major renovations and updates to Artondale Elementary School to improve safety and accessibility.
- Major renovations and upgrades to the older portions of Peninsula High School, including fixing the roof and expanding classrooms.
- Key Peninsula Middle School will receive major upgrades and renovations to classrooms to expand their size.
- Maintenance systems will be replaced and student recreation activities will be expanded.
- Discovery Elementary and Minter Creek Elementary will receive moderate updates to enhance classrooms and learning environments.
- Kopachuck Middle School will see expanded science classrooms and learning environments.
- Gig Harbor High School will see updated and enhanced classrooms.
- All schools will have their fire and sprinkler systems up to current codes.
- After-hour electronic security devices will be installed at all schools.
- All schools will become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- All schools will have their HVAC systems replaced.
- Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools will have their roofs replaced.
- A new elementary school will be built in Gig Harbor North to ease overcrowded classrooms.
The district will need a supermajority, or 60 percent plus one, of the vote for the bond to pass.