Marysville studies levy to build 2 schools

MARYSVILLE – Like any responsible school district, Marysville wants taxpayers to understand that replacing schools is an ongoing need.

With 18 schools, and the fact that schools start to deteriorate after 40 years, that would mean replacing one an average of every few years.

Instead, Marysville’s newest school, $20 million Grove Elementary, was built in 2008.

To get that much-needed replacement cycle started, the district is looking at a $120 million six-year levy in February that would replace Liberty and Cascade elementary schools.

The tax rate would be $1.93 per $1,000 valuation, or about $579 a year on a $300,000 home. State funds of almost $13.5 million would help with the cost.

The reason the district is choosing the levy route, rather than the bond route like the $230 million one defeated three years ago, is simple: It takes a majority vote to pass rather than a 60 percent supermajority.

“We’re desperate. We gotta get that process started,” Mike Sullivan, district finance director, said Monday.

Marysville isn’t the only local district going to voters.

Edmonds is going for a bond of $600 million, Snohomish $470 million, Everett $317 million and Mukilteo $240 million.

“We’re by far the lowest,” Sullivan said, adding February elections historically are the best time to pass school measures.

Even though district enrollment has been steadily dropping, the two grade schools would each be about 70,000 square feet, rather than about the 40,000 they are now. To compare, Grove is 56,000 square feet.

Sullivan explained the schools need to be bigger because of the mandated smaller class sizes. Plus there has to be other special rooms for other needs. There are nine portables at Liberty and five at Cascade, and teachers are still having to do some special instruction in hallways, Sullivan said.

Six years from now, the district hopes to have earned the public’s trust so it can pass bonds to replace other schools, and keeping the price per $1,000 at the same level.

“We need to show we can do it, and do it right,” superintendent Jason Thompson said.

Sullivan said Liberty needs to be replaced because it was built in 1961 and is rated “poor” by the state school chief’s office.

The finance director’s estimates show each new school would cost about $49.52 million. Each would take about 18 months to construct.

However, director Tom Albright obviously was concerned that by the time construction starts in 2022 at Liberty, it’s cost increases to $58.43 million. And by the time Cascade is built, the cost would be $67.35 million.

“Can we borrow against it and start sooner?” he asked.

Ray Sheldon, who was in the audience, said he doesn’t want to pay more taxes, but this, “needs to be done. It’s a safety issue for our children.”

Sullivan said new schools can be designed with safety as a priority.

“Everybody will jump on that bus,” Sheldon said.

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