Puyallup: News

Puyallup School District’s request for $273 million sinks in the polls

Voters on Tuesday were rejecting the Puyallup School District’s $273 million request to renovate the district’s high schools.

More than 51 percent had voted to approve the bond measure, according to preliminary election results provided by the Pierce County Auditor’s Office, but bonds in Washington must pass by a super-majority, or 60 percent of the vote.

“Although disappointed in the recent vote and results on the district’s bond measure, we do recognize that ballot measures have many variables that our community looks at when deciding how they choose to vote,” School Board President Chris Ihrig said in a press release.

Only one Puyallup School District bond measure has passed in more than a decade. In 2015, voters consented to the district’s request for $292.5 million to build or replace the elementary schools.

The 2019 construction bond request would have expanded the main buildings at Rogers, Puyallup, Walker and Emerald Ridge high schools to eliminate portables and other campus buildings in an effort to make them safer.

Property owners would have been taxed $3.94 per $1,000 of the assessed value starting with their 2020 tax bill, said Corine Pennington, PSD’s chief financial officer.

For some voters at the Puyallup Library on Tuesday, it was an easy vote to cast.

Laura Shaw was one.

The South Hill resident said keeping the school districts funded was the biggest concern for her and she voted for the measure.

“The city is growing, and we need to meet the need. Schools are vital,” she said.

Others, like Lynn Smith struggled. She used to work in the Puyallup School District and said she was torn on her decision with the construction bond. She feels that the district has not been responsible with it’s spending, choosing to give administrators high salaries and build more schools while teachers salaries are low on the list of priorities.

“It was something I really wrestled with,” Smith said.

There were three school board positions up for election. Incumbent Michael Keaton won, as did the unopposed Joseph Romero. Turan Kayaoglu won about 59 percent of the votes.

Next steps are determined by the new school board, spokesperson Brian Fox said.

“They will have to grapple with this and decide what to do to move forward,” he said. “Our job is to run the best schools for our kids and provide the best education for Puyallup students and we will continue to do that.”

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Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County and Puyallup for The News Tribune and The Puyallup Herald. She previously worked at The News Journal in Delaware as the crime reporter and interned at The Washington Post.