By Brian Lewis
Arlington Public Schools is asking for voter approval of a school construction and safety bond on the Feb. 13 ballot.
Here are the mostimportant things the community needs to know when considering this proposal:
•Taxes: Passage of the bond proposal would not cause local school property tax rates to increase beyond what the community is paying in 2018; in fact, district estimates of school tax rates show the rate declining significantly. The combined local and school state property tax rate in 2018 is $7.48 per $1,000 of assessed value.
If the bond were to be approved by voters, the 2019 combined rate drops to $6.59 per $1,000 and drops again to $6.07 per $1,000 in 2021, where it remains stable through 2039. On a $350,000 home, that means an annual tax decrease from 2018 to 2021 of $393.53. How can that happen? As state law is written, school districts will roll back their local Educational Programs and Operations rate to no more than $1.50 per $1,000 in 2019 (it’s $3.30 per $1,000 in 2018).
•Safety and security: The bond proposal adds safety and security features to the community’s schools. Each school building will receive a security package, consisting of a secured entry, improved classroom door locks (right now teachers have to go in the hallway to lock classroom doors, exposing themselves to threats that may be present in a lockdown situation), and interior and exterior security cameras that are networked so school administrators could share camera views with emergency or law enforcement personnel responding to an incident.
Those features combine to keep people out of the school building, help defend the school against those who may have ill intent, improve student discipline, deter crime on campus and provide tools to solve crimes if they occur on campus. The bond also funds a fire sprinkler system for Eagle Creek Elementary and replaces Post Middle School, which has no fire sprinkler system installed. Post has no interior hallways; every classroom door opens to the outside. The campus is difficult to secure. Traffic safety improvements would also be made districtwide to minimize the possibility of auto accidents occurring on campus.
•Preparing for the future: the largest project in the proposal is a replacement for Post, and additions of eight classrooms and a Technology and Arts workshop at Arlington High School. There are 341 new housing units under construction in the Post Middle School attendance area. The new Post would support 50 more students than the current one and be built so that additional classrooms could be added without disrupting operations.
Arlington High School is expecting 362 additional students by 2022, just from the students who are already enrolled in our elementary and middle school buildings. The additional classrooms and instructional spaces funded by the bond are important to meet the needs of students already enrolled.
More information about the bond proposal is available at www.asd.wednet.edu/bond. You can also contact me at 360-618-6238 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian Lewis is executive director of operations for Arlington Public Schools. The district’s column runs monthly.