• Frequently Asked Questions

    Posted by Ruth Richardson on 2/20/2019 1:45:00 PM

    Evergreen Bond Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a school bond?

    Bonds for school projects are very similar to a mortgage on a home. To finance construction projects, the district sells bonds to investors who will be paid principal and interest.

    How can bond money be used?

    Proceeds from a bond issue can be used for the construction and renovation of facilities, the acquisition of land, and the purchase of capital items such as equipment. School districts CANNOT use bond dollars for salaries or classroom operations.

    Doesn’t the state fully fund public education?

    The McCleary court decision was not meant to stop bonds and levies. In fact, the legislation had nothing to do with bonds. Local school districts are still responsible for the majority of the cost to build new schools and fix old ones.

    What is the proposed cost to replace Evergreen?

    Local funding of the bond—$44,500,000— would cost about 74¢ per $1,000 assessed value for 20 years based on 2018 property values.

    What does this mean for the average homeowner?

    To calculate your estimated annual tax increase for the bond, divide your assessed property value by 1,000 and multiply that number by 74¢. For example, a homeowner with a home valued at $275,000 (median list price in Sedro-Woolley from zillow.com), the projected/estimated increase would be $203.50 annually or $16.95 monthly.

    Is there a senior or disabled exemption?

    Seniors, age 61 and older by Dec. 31, 2018, as well as disabled persons, with a combined income of less than $40,000 a year may be exempt from all or part of bond taxes. Call the Skagit County Assessor’s Office at 360-416-1780 for more information.

    How can I pay less in tax rates with the additional bond request?

    Even with the Evergreen bond included, taxpayers will be paying substantially less in school taxes in 2019 than in 2018 because of the new tax restructuring. McCleary has leveled the playing field for school districts like Sedro-Woolley by equalizing tax rates. As it currently stands, there will be a reduction of total combined state and local tax rates beginning 2019. Even with the 74¢ bond for the new Evergreen, taxpayers will see a reduction from $7.12 per $1,000 in assessed property value to $5.13 per $1,000. 

    Home Values & School Taxes

    What’s wrong with the current Evergreen building?

    Evergreen is our largest elementary school and the open-concept design was flawed since the building opened in 1972. The school is a maze of classrooms that were inadequately designed for learning and safety. Experts say it would cost almost as much to remodel for student use as it would to build a new structure that will not displace 580 students. 

    Classroom maze    Faux walls and no storage   

    Why doesn’t the school district pay teachers more instead of constructing a new building?

    Bonds pay for buildings and can't be used for salaries. Levies and state funding pay for teachers and our district reinvests the money at a much higher rate in the classroom than most. Our teachers are amazing and we're proud to support their efforts in the classroom. Evergreen teachers work in a school where the water is discolored because of rust and bottled water is provided as a courtesy for staff and students to drink. They work where there are faux walls that have been installed over the years to create classroom spaces, but do nothing to help with distractions as students walk through from other classrooms. These same classrooms where the HVAC system does nothing because it was installed for an open concept school. These teachers work in classrooms where the carpet is 46 years old. The school district is supplying everything but a backpack for all K-6 students with help from the levy our taxpayers approved in February. The McCleary decision is redistributing the taxes collected throughout the state. The math is clear: Sedro-Woolley school tax rates will decrease even with the additional Evergreen bond.

    That seems like a lot of money to build one school. Are you sure it’s going to cost $46.4 million?

    The Sedro-Woolley School District worked with experts in engineering, architecture, school construction (The Robinson Company and Harthorne Architects) to develop the pricing necessary to build a new Evergreen Elementary School. They specialize in public sector projects like this and are well known for their accuracy. We also examined other similar recent projects from other districts. For a public sector project like this, the school district cannot request bids from contractors, architects, etc., until a bond is approved by voters. The Robinson Company looks at similar projects costs, takes things like rising material and labor costs into account, and estimates the total project cost. 

    My home is valued at $259,000. Won’t the additional bond cost me more money? And my home value is going to increase so I’ll be paying more!

    In 2018, you would pay $1,846.50 for the combined state and local school taxes. In 2019, with the Evergreen bond included in school tax collections, you'd pay $1,328.67. If the Evergreen bond is approved, you'd save $517.83 in 2019. If it fails, you'll save $709.49. 

    If your home increases in value to $300,000, you'd STILL be paying less in 2019 than you are in 2018 because of the new McCleary tax rate structure. A $300,000 home will pay $1,539 in 2019. Still $307.50 less than you're paying now on a $259,000 home.  

    Why doesn’t the Sedro-Woolley School District shut down all the outlying elementary school and build a couple of larger elementary schools in town to save money?

    We don’t believe closing our outlying elementary schools is a good idea for these reasons:

    1. We would need to build 3 new elementary schools in town to accommodate the students from Big Lake (350), Clearlake (330), Samish (185), and Lyman (180) — with the assumption we still need a new Evergreen building and we’d need room for growth.
    2. Building three new schools would cost more than $140 million, using the building estimates from Evergreen.
    3. We would also need to purchase land to place these new schools. 
    4. Our youngest students would need to be bused to town and that would make a long bus ride—for some, more than an hour. 
    5. We believe in small neighborhood schools. Students thrive.

     

    We just passed a levy in February. What’s the difference between a levy and a bond?

    Levies are for LearningBonds are for Building

    Levies make up the difference between funding from the state and federal government and the actual cost of operating a school district. Levies pay for teaching materials and equipment, bus transportation, building improvements, such as carpet replacement and interior painting, and vocational, athletic, drama, special education, and gifted programs. Levy funds are typically collected over a two to four-year time period and must be renewed (similar to a magazine subscription).

    Funds from bonds can only be used for construction or renovation of buildings, major repairs, and land purchases; they cannot be used for basic education. Bond funds are generally collected over a 20- to 30-year period (similar to a home mortgage).

    Here’s a link to a video about the difference:

    Bond vs. Levy video

    Why did you choose to run a bond instead of a capital levy?  

    Bonds are the way Washington state funds major building projects. They span 20-30 years and keep the per/$1000 cost much lower than smaller levies. Dollars from a bond can be made available right away. Capital levies are for smaller projects, can only release funds yearly, and have higher immediate per/$1000 rates due to the short payback period (2-6 yrs. max). Our aging facilities have many needs including enhanced safety, security, ADA accessibility, and fire alarm/suppression systems. These systems and the need to address our professional learning environments, bringing them up to the 21st Century standards, are greater than what can be paid off by a smaller levy of even $50 million.

    Why doesn't the school district just remodel the existing Evergreen?

    The original Evergreen building was built as an open-concept school. These structures were economical to build because it was a skeletal framework of a building that didn’t require as many resources for wall framing and seismic capacity.

    Most of these types of buildings are no longer in use. OSPI rates Evergreen’s structure as poor.

    Evergreen’s original open-concept design does not allow for economical modification of the existing building frame. The building’s minimal structural system will not allow it to be upgraded to today’s seismic requirements for schools.

    The only reason Evergreen is allowed to be occupied today is because it was grandfathered in as an existing structure.

    Evergreen’s classroom structure is one of the last remaining open-concept schools in the state, with its original structural framing not meeting today’s seismic framing safety design requirements.

    According to construction experts, it would cost MORE money to remodel the existing Evergreen, along with adding additional permanent classroom space, since the existing structure would have to be demolished and the district would need to provide temporary housing for students and staff for about 18 months.

    Sedro-Woolley’s other elementary schools are already bursting at the seams, so the district would need to provide portable classrooms, which cost between $250,000 and $300,000 to buy and install.

    The district would need 15 to 20 additional two-classroom portables with restrooms to house the nearly 600 Evergreen students and staff.

    The temporary housing would also need to have access to a gymnasium for PE classes during inclement weather.

    The district would need to pay for demolition, portables and then still build a new Evergreen. This would cost about $6 to $8 million more than the proposed three-story structure near CMS.

    The Facilities Improvement Taskforce evaluated this option and recommended that the district continue to be good stewards of the community’s money by building a new Evergreen.

    Eventually, the district could remodel the existing Evergreen for office-staff space at a very low cost. However, to use it and expand it for student use would not be cost effective.

    The new three-story structure maximizes available field space, provides adequate parking, utilizes existing CMS bus load/unload lanes and separates bus and car traffic for safer school traffic.

    What is the maintenance budget and why wasn't Evergreen better maintained? 

    The Sedro-Woolley School District spends about $3.3 million annually on facility maintenance.

    Knowing the Evergreen building is not eligible for a student-use remodel because of seismic concerns, the district has limited the dollars spent on major maintenance to be good stewards of taxpayer money.

    The maintenance budget is for all district buildings (about 580,000 square feet) and athletic facilities. And while $3.3 million is a substantial amount, it is not nearly enough to address some of the district’s major issues.

    The Facilities Improvement Taskforce, made up of community volunteers and staff members from various Sedro-Woolley schools, created a list of more than $45 million in maintenance and remodeling work recommended above and beyond replacing Evergreen. This work is now part of the district’s long-term plan in maintaining our facilities.

    All of these education taxes are going to drive me out of my home, why is it always a new tax?

    It is unfortunate that this is how the state of Washington chooses to fund school construction. In the Sedro-Woolley School District, we have worked hard to keep our tax rates as low as possible. Even with our proposed 74¢ increase to your taxes, we will still be one of the lowest in Skagit County.

    Tax Rate Comparison of Local Schools

    Won't the bond cost us millions in interest payments?

    This is true. Like a house, you bought for $300,000 you end up paying at least double that amount after you pay off your 30-year mortgage. The Sedro-Woolley School District have kept our bonds to a 20-year length, lessening the interest, saving the taxpayers millions in interest.

    I heard my taxes are increasing, not decreasing. I thought the McCleary decision was supposed to help.

    The table below shows that increase in the fourth row - an increase from 2018 to 2019 from $.49 to $1.23 per $1,000 assessed value. But if you add levy and bond together you’ll see that the tax overall burden at the local level goes down. NO levy tax dollars can go towards building projects — by state law they can ONLY be used on basic education expenditures. We have to prove each year to OSPI that this is the only way we are using levy dollars.

    Now, we acknowledge that the state, in order to meet the McCleary case and constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education, has raised the state property tax $.86 per $1000 in 2018, but ALL of that additional revenue pays for basic education, not additional facilities.

    Tax Rate Comparison Table

    I have additional questions that have not been answered, how can I find answers?

    Please e-mail bond@swsd101.org and someone will answer your question as quickly as possible.

     

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