Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

School district proposes two measures for 2019 special ballot

The bond includes funding a new elementary school in the Sunset/Highlands area.

Renton School District is proposing two ballot measures for February 2019 Special Election.

One measure is an education and operations replacement levy, to replace the 2016 levy expiring in December 2019.

Randy Matheson, spokesperson for the Renton School District, said almost everything in the district is touched by this levy, including employee pay, as it funds 19 percent of the operating budget. The levy would collect $56 million in 2019, $58 million in 2020 and $59 million in 2021.

The levy funds teacher pay, support staff pay, maintenance on school buses, driver pay, custodial pay, helps with utility costs, curriculum materials in the classroom, provides funding for arts music and all the other programs in Renton schools. Matheson said the levy will be essentially the same line items as the 2016 levy.

“It’s an opportunity for local residents to promote their local schools by providing funding,” Matheson said.

The other measure is a $249.6 million building for excellence school improvement bond, which will help create a new elementary school in the Sunset/Highlands area and additional projects at almost every school.

The new elementary school has been in talks since 2015, Matheson said, when a citizens committee presented the idea of two new elementary schools, one being Sartori Elementary, completed this fall.

Land is being negotiated for the possible spot of the new school, in the northeast section of the district where it has seen the greatest growth, and where new home developments are set to take place, according to the district. The bond also funds potential land acquisition for future schools as the district continues to grow.

The district and school board looked at options for the bond and chose the one allowing for improvements to be done at more schools, Matheson said.

School Board President Lynn Desmarais said the construction bond helps with student and teacher needs.

“It is important that we provide the classroom space that our students and teachers need, and maintain all of our school buildings in the condition that the community expects,” Desmarais said.

District school fields and other community-used facilities such as the Hazen High School pool would be improved with this bond.

Some of the improvements in this bond would include continuing to update safety and security measures. Matheson said additional security cameras and looking to improve some school entry points would be included.

The bond also includes projects from the 2016 Capital Facilities levy that helped fund Sartori Elementary. Matheson said this would shift the projects remaining in that levy to the new bond so taxpayers pay less over a longer period of time.

“We’re going to honor the voters approval of that 2016 capital facilities levy by continuing these projects in the bond measure and that reduces the tax payments overall,” Matheson said.

The district said tax rates for property owners will continue to decrease even with approval of the measures.

According to the district’s website, the 2019 total district tax rate would be $3.52 per $1,000 of assessed property value, lower than the 2018 $4.61 per $1,000 of assessed property value rate. This is due in part to more families and business moving into the area, according to the district.

These measures usually appear on the February ballot with good turnout, Matheson said, with 2016’s ballot measures receiving more than 60 percent approval from voters.

Since 1998, voters have approved most levies and bonds, rejecting three bonds that were all rerun and eventually passed.

“Our teachers and support staff deserve the best classroom materials and support possible to help them with their hard work to provide our children with a great education. I know that Renton School District citizens, whether they currently have children or grandchildren in school or not, have consistently supported that work through the operations levies,” Desmarais said.

A Q&A from the school district about the measures is available at: www.rentonschools.us/Page/6175

The 2019 Special Election is Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019.

Voter information can be found at: www.kingcounty.gov/depts/elections.aspx.

Contact reporter Haley Ausbun at hausbun@rentonreporter.com or by phone at 253-678-3148.

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