Why do Washington schools have bonds and capital levies?
Washington state does not fund the cost of building new schools, renovating older schools or costly maintenance projects. The state does allow districts to ask local voters for those funds.
Voters approve capital levies and operational levies with a simple majority vote – 50 percent plus 1. Bonds require a supermajority approval – 60 percent. What is a capital levy?
A capital levy can be as long as six years. Capital levies are used for larger projects with shorter life spans. For example, the capital levy on the ballot on April 26 includes buying computers and security cameras. A capital levy doesn’t involve debt to investors like a bonddoes. This makes a capital levy a less costly way of paying for capital projects.
Capital levy funds come to the district in equal installments over six years.
How can bond money be used?
State law mandates that bond funds are used to build or renovate school facilities, buy land, or buy capital items such as portables or equipment.
Bond dollars cannot be used for classroom operations or salaries. But bonds can play a very important part in safeguarding school operational dollars.
For example, if a school roof fails, replacing it can cost as much as $2 million. Without bond funds, the district must use classroom
dollars to pay to replace the roof. That $2 million is the equivalent of funding 23 teachers for one year.
Why did the 2016 bond not include a new high school south of the existing Henry M. Jackson High School?
Because of the high cost of building a new high school. If a new high school were part of this bond request, the cost for tax payers would more than double. A new high school could cost as much as $160 million dollars.
In 2014, voters were asked to approve a bond that included the first phase of a new high school and plans for future additions to that school over time. Although that proposal earned 58 percent majority approval, a bond requires 60 percent supermajority approval, so the bond in 2014 failed – once in February and again in April.
In follow-up community meetings, residents said the 2014 bond request was too much (the 2014 bond asked voters to approve $259.4 million compared to $149.7 million this April.) Those who attended meetings and took part in online discussions felt the district should take “smaller bites” with bond requests. How does a bond process work?
First, 60 percent or more of the voters approve a specific amount (in this case $149,700,000) for the district to use for capital projects as outlined in the ballot language.
As the district works on construction projects, it sells municipal bonds to investors. These are usually large institutional investors. The district sells these at the lowest possible interest rate.
The interest rate is based on the district’s bond rating—the higher the bond rating, the lower the interest rate to sell the bonds. Everett Public Schools is one of the highest rated districts in the state. This means district taxpayers pay less
in school bond interest than do residents of districts with lower bond ratings. What does it take to pass a bond or levy?
Levies require a simple majority, 50 percent plus 1, to pass. Bonds require 60 percent, a supermajority, to pass. Are there tax exemptions for some?
Yes, senior citizens (61+), veterans and disabled persons may qualify for property tax exemptions. To learn more visit the Snohomish County Assessor’s website. How do I register to vote?
To vote in an election, you need to register the Monday 4 weeks before election day, if you are registering by mail or online, or the Monday 1 week before election day, if you are registering in person.
You can register online
, or you can pick up a voter registration form at any school or the Community Resource Center.