By Chrys Sweeting
Arlington has an important question to consider on February’s election ballot: Approve or reject Arlington Public Schools’ bond request to build a safer, more-efficient Post Middle School and make classroom and safety improvements across the district. Some facts to consider:
•The 2000 bond that built the wonderful Arlington High School building will be paid off in 2020. If the new bond is approved, bond tax rates would remain the same in 2021 as they are estimated to be in 2020 at $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed value. At the same time, the district’s Educational Programs and Operations Levy has been reduced from $3.31 to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. Arlington property owners would have a total local schools property tax rate of $2.92 per $1,000 assessed value in 2020 and future years.
•The last time a building bond request was approved was in 2000. The school board and district staff have maintained both fiscal discipline and good stewardship with the resources available. But now the need is so great, asking our community for building bond support is essential. •Post Middle School was identified for replacement as early as 2008. The district’s Facilities Advisory Committee recognized that trying to fix Post’s lack of seismic resistance to earthquakes, difficulty in securing the building from outside intruders, and inefficient heating and ventilation systems would cost nearly as much as replacing the building with a better, safer and more-efficient new building. •The district presented school building bond requests to voters in February and November last year. Both times, the measure received majority support but did not reach the 60 percent supermajority required. A complex new school funding model was implemented by the state legislature in an attempt to address the “McCleary Fix.” However, this new funding model does not provide money for school buildings, only day-to-day operations of the school. •You should have noticed that your total property tax rate increased in 2018. However, this is only temporary because beginning in 2019, a portion is lower resulting in a total local schools tax rate decrease from $4.68 in 2018 to $2.92 in 2020. For example, for a home valued at $350,000, the total local property taxes for schools decreases from $1,638 to $1,022 a year.
•District staff conducted surveys and focus groups, and voters expressed concerns about some projects included in the two previous bond requests. For the Feb. 12 bond package, the school board removed some projects, decreasing the requested bond ask from $107.5 million to $96 million. •There are many more benefits to the community from an approved bond: Safety and security upgrades at all schools; improved pedestrian, bus and car safety at high-vehicle traffic schools like Eagle Creek and Kent Prairie; and additional classrooms at Arlington High School. Our website – www.asd.wednet.edu – has extensive information about the bond. Please contact me at 360-618-6202 if you have any questions. We thank you for your consideration of Arlington’s school building bond request.
Chrys Sweeting is the superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, which runs a monthly column in this newspaper.