For the second time this year, the Bethel School District is asking voters to pass a $236.7 million bond measure.
The same measure failed to gather the required 60 percent approval in a February election. But it came so close — with 57.4 percent approval — that district officials decided to try again.
“The majority spoke, it just wasn’t enough,” said Shannon Booth, head of the bond campaign and the mother of five children in Bethel schools. “I don’t like to think we failed. We fell short.”
Superintendent Tom Seigel says getting the word out about school measures is difficult, and that sometimes repeat attempts are necessary.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News Tribune
If approved, this would be Bethel’s first bond passage since 2006.
$130 a yearCost of the bond for owner of a $200,000 home
Ballots will be mailed to voters Thursday.
The Bethel measure would pay for a long list of improvements, including partial replacement and modernization of the 64-year-old Bethel High School, a new elementary school and an aquatic center that would be used by students but also open to the community.
While the amount to be collected and the list of projects for the Bethel proposal is the same as it was in February, the estimated tax rate per $1,000 of property value has dropped, from 74 cents per thousand to 65 cents.
The reason? The new rate is based on new, higher property valuations from Pierce County. The district also projects lower interest rates that will be paid to bond buyers.
The combination of the two factors drops the tax rate per thousand, while keeping the dollars raised the same.
Approval of the measure will cost the owner of a property valued at $200,000 an additional $130 a year.
Here’s are the major projects that would be paid for with bond money. The district plans to:
▪ Build an elementary school on land that already is part of the Cedarcrest Middle School campus, and buy land to support future enrollment growth.
The school district added 900 students in the past two years, and expects 3,000 more in the next decade.
▪ Replace or renovate six schools: Evergreen and Naches Trail elementary schools; Cedarcrest Middle School and Bethel, Challenger and Graham-Kapowsin high schools.
4Number of recent Bethel High floods
Seigel says Bethel High has suffered four floods in the past five years, three due to broken pipes. The roof leaks, and plumbing and electrical systems are outdated, he added. Last year, an electrical panel meltdown closed the school temporarily.
In the 1990s, the school underwent a facelift that made it look nice when you drive by, Booth said. But the problems are behind school walls.
When it’s time to change classes, for example, nearly 600 students navigate what officials call “the Bethel bottleneck.” That’s a spot in the school where two hallways, a stairway and the single door to 17 portable classrooms converge.
A $95 million project will give Bethel High new classroom wings, but leave parts of the building that are in better shape, including the gyms, intact.
At Graham-Kapowsin, $23 million in additions will include a new classroom wing, cafeteria and gym space. The building opened in 2005 with space for 1,400 students, but now has nearly 600 more.
Challenger, the district’s alternative high school, is housed in 14 aging portable buildings. Seigel said the school maintains a waiting list because of lack of space.
The bond includes $26 million for a new building on Pacific Avenue, on the site of the old Spanaway Elementary School.
▪ Update athletic fields at all three comprehensive high schools. Upgrades would create year-round facilities by installing artificial turf, Booth said.
At present, only the district’s main stadium, Art Crate Field, uses the artificial surface. It’s overbooked, and practice fields at other high schools often are unusable because of rain, Booth said.
▪ Build an aquatic center for use by Bethel students and the community.
We do need new schools, but this bond covers too much that we don’t need
Bond opponent Jennifer Smith
This part of the bond has drawn criticism, including a statement against the bond in the official voters’ pamphlet.
Jennifer Smith, who wrote the opposition statement, calls the aquatic center, along with “high-end athletic fields,” a luxury.
“We do need new schools, but this bond covers too much that we don’t need,” she wrote. “They are holding our overcrowded elementary school students hostage by forcing us to pay for expensive luxuries.”
District officials said none of Bethel’s high schools have pools — unlike many modern high schools. School swim teams practice in Eatonville or Puyallup, or at Pacific Lutheran University.
District officials point out there are no public swimming pools within the school district boundaries.
The Bethel pool would be used for swimming lessons for second- and fifth-grade students, as well as by school swim teams. When not used by students, it will be available to the community.
Seigel said the district anticipates receiving $10.5 million in state construction subsidies. Total project cost of the aquatic center is $29 million.
Bethel bond measure by the numbers
Amount: $236.7 million
Estimated additional tax rate per $1,000 of property value: 65 cents
Length of time for payoff: 20 years
Added tax on a $200,000 home: $130 a year
More information: http://bethelsd.schoolwires. net/domain/4412
SOURCE: Bethel School District