Following months of study, the Aberdeen School Board has unanimously decided to ask voters to approve two measures during the February 2020 special election:
- Renewal of the existing enrichment levy that pays for programs not funded by the state, and
- A bond issue to build a new Stevens Elementary School.
“These important investments are structured so that taxpayers will not see an increase above 2017 rates,” Superintendent Alicia Henderson said.
“Bonds are for building, levies are for learning,” Henderson added, citing a phrase often used to help differentiate between the two funding sources. “The enrichment levy is critical for day-to-day operations. And now, with the bonds for Aberdeen High School due to be paid off by 2024, it is time to keep the promise that Stevens School is next.”
The $3.2 million levy will continue the existing tax that funds programs and operations that “enhance” education, most notably music, athletics, technology and curriculum. The enrichment levy is due to expire in 2020 and voters are being asked to extend it for four years at the current rate of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
Superintendent Henderson explained that establishing the levy for the next four years, instead of the traditional two years, is intended to provide certainty about tax rates at a time when the district is also requesting authority to build a new school. “Aberdeen voters have supported this levy for many years,” she said. “As we prepare to build a new school, the Board wanted our community to have the assurance that we are not planning to ask for an increase in the enrichment levy.”
Bond for a new Stevens School
The bond proposal seeks authority to sell up to $46.8 million in bonds for a new Stevens Elementary School. The current school dates to 1951, and has not seen significant investment since a modernization project in the 1970s. The district is expecting to receive about $5 million in state construction funds and has been awarded a $3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to build a vertical evacuation tower in the event of a tsunami or other natural disaster. Additional funding sources are being explored.
“We recognize that the price for a new grade school is significant,” Superintendent Henderson said. “But we have done our due diligence, and must comply with state requirements for new school construction. We also recognize our community’s desire to build a school that will keep our children safe in the event of a tsunami or other disaster.”
The bond sale will be scheduled so that payments are “interest-only” until the high school is paid off, according to the schedule presented to the School Board. The total combined tax rate – local bonds, local levy and the state schools tax – is projected to equal the 2017 rate of $6.78 per $1,000 of assessed value through 2025, after which it will decrease to $5.57 per $1,000 of assessed value.