Students from Lake Washington High School (LWHS) competed against 10 other high schools in the annual Washington State Ethics Bowl.
2019 Capital Projects Levy FAQ
Lake Washington School District (LWSD) will have a Capital Projects Levy on the April 23, 2019 ballot. Below are answers to some common questions.
Capital Projects Levy
- Lake Washington is building more classrooms needed to support our growing enrollment.
- Student enrollment in LWSD continues to grow and we want to provide students with the best learning environments possible and provide classrooms for our ever-growing student population.
- The 2019 Levy maintains the current rate with no tax rate increase.
This measure authorizes a six-year levy totaling $120 million or $20 million per year for six years.
- Why does LWSD need a levy?
- What will the proposed levy pay for?
- What are the estimated project costs?
- When would the additions be completed?
- How do you know how many more students are coming?
- Can’t you just add more portables if you need more space?
- Why do you have to add on to Lake Washington High School now when the school was just completed six years ago?
- How much will the Capital Projects Levy measure cost?
- Do the additions provide additional classrooms for new students or is this to address current overcrowding?
- What will happen to the portables at the schools slated for additions?
- Why doesn't the levy include rebuilding and enlarging schools?
- When will the next bond be? What will be on it?
- How does LWSD ensure that construction is done in a cost-effective way?
LWSD is growing rapidly. LWSD’s official October 1 student enrollment was 29,987 students. This represents 417 more students than last year’s October 1 count. For the last 10 years, from 2008 to 2018, the district’s enrollment grew by approximately 620 students each year. That is the size of a large elementary school. A total of 6,218 more students are in LWSD schools today than 10 years ago, representing 26 percent growth.
In 2014, LWSD formed a 63-member Long-Term Facility Task Force to help develop a plan to address the district’s facility challenges. The Tasks Force reviewed the district’s facility needs and developed recommendations to reduce overcrowding, accommodate a rapidly growing student enrollment, and continue to provide quality learning environments and experiences for our students. Staff and community members provided feedback throughout the process. In November 2015, the Task Force recommended a long-term strategy through 2029-30 which prioritized building new schools and enlarging aging schools to address capacity needs.
A Bond Advisory Committee helped develop the funding plan to implement the long-term facility recommendations. The long-term plan guides the district as we continue building toward future success. The funding plan included an April 2016 bond that was passed by voters, a February 2018 bond that was not passed by voters, and future bonds planned for 2022 and 2026. The February 2018 bond did not receive the 60 percent approval needed to pass.
The Capital Projects Levy is being proposed as a short-term measure to address ongoing critical capacity needs because of our rapid enrollment growth. The levy will also address student safety and security.
The district passed a Capital Projects Levy in 2011 to fund additions at Redmond and Eastlake high schools and build Tesla STEM High School, a smaller choice high school.
The April 2019 Capital Projects Levy will provide:
- Classroom space for 1,050 students by providing additions at five schools for a total of 44 new classrooms.
- Expansion of commons and auxiliary gym space at Lake Washington High School (LWHS) and expansion of core facilities at the identified elementary schools where feasible.
- Student safety and security enhancements:
- Exterior security cameras at all elementary schools
- Remodel entryways at Redmond, Eastlake and Lake Washington High Schools to implement entry control systems.
Total cost for all the projects is $144 million, allowing for construction inflation, sales tax, and other fees in addition to construction costs. These project cost estimates consider cost-conscious design and construction method recommended by a community-based task force. The district will use $24 million of remaining 2006 bond project funds toward these project funds resulting in the levy request of $120 million.
The estimated schedule for additions:
- Fall of 2020: Addition at Lake Washington High School
- Fall of 2021: Additions at Franklin, Rose Hill and Twain elementary schools; Expansion of core space (Auxiliary gym and cafeteria at Lake Washington High School
- Fall of 2022: Addition at Carson Elementary School; Expansion of core space at Franklin, Twain and Rose Hill elementary schools
- Fall of 2023: Expansion of core space at Carson Elementary School
The district carefully tracks residential development, births and other factors that affect enrollment projections. The district learns where developments are planned and keeps in touch with the developer to collect the latest information on their timeline for building and for sales. The district carefully tracks how many students may be living in each type of development to predict the number of students who will come from new developments. King County births are tracked to determine how many children are likely to attend our schools in kindergarten in five years’ time. The district also knows who is currently in our schools and the likely retention rates through each grade. The district also works with Western Demographics, an outside demographer, to review enrollment and projection methodology.
Portables are temporary classroom solutions. There is a limit to the number of portables we can place on each campus. Each portable must receive a permit from the school’s local jurisdiction. Depending on the jurisdiction and on the specific piece of land the school sits on, we may not be able to add any portables at all, or we may be able to add a few. Keep in mind that adding classrooms via portables without expanding other spaces, such as cafeterias, gyms, libraries and bathrooms, puts pressure on the ability to serve all students in those spaces. Also, portables are not an inexpensive solution. Each classroom portable costs about $450,000 to purchase, prepare and install.
Initial planning for the scope of the new Lake Washington High School (LWHS) building began in 2005 for the 2006 bond measure. At the time, the district still had three-year high schools, one full grade less than it houses now. Work on determining the feasibility of four-year high schools did not begin until 2009, the same year the district broke ground for the new building. So at the time the school was planned, there was no immediate need for additional space.
However, the district did foresee the possibility that growing enrollments and/or a change in grade configuration could create a need for more space at LWHS at some time in the future. As a result, when the school was designed, a second phase addition was planned, when needed. Since the school now both houses an additional grade and is seeing growing enrollment, the need for an addition to the school has arrived. Also, building space earlier than needed impacts cost of maintenance and operations.
This measure authorizes a six-year levy totaling $120 million or $20 million per year for six years. The levy rate will be an average of $0.27 per $1,000 of assessed value. This amount will be offset by a reduction of an average of $0.27 per $1,000 of assessed value in bonds. The district is paying off past bonds and since the 2018 bond measure did not pass, we will not be selling these bonds. The Capital Projects Levy measure combined with past bond measures will maintain the tax rate at or below the estimated 2019 tax rate of $1.15 per $1,000 of assessed value.
LWSD uses many strategies to leverage resources in planning, design and construction to ensure that we are being effective and effective with every dollar. As an example, we created a Design and Construction Advisory committee to review projects and provide input. Working with the Design and Construction Advisory Committee and their recommendations, the district was able to avoid nearly $44 million in additional costs for our 2016 bond projects. For more information about the Advisory Committee and other strategies that are being used, please visit the Design and Construction Advisory Committee page of the LWSD website.
The 2019 Capital Projects Levy will support student safety by adding exterior security cameras at all elementary schools. It will also fund entry modifications for security at Eastlake, Lake Washington and Redmond High Schools. (Juanita High School’s entry modifications will be added during the current construction project.)
- Why does the district have to ask for money?
- Didn’t the state fully fund education with the McCleary Plan?
- Don’t developer impact fees help pay for new schools needed for growing enrollment?
- Doesn’t the state provide money for new school buildings?
The state’s McCleary Plan provided additional funding for basic education. These funds can only be used for day-to-day operations in the general fund. They cannot be used for construction. The district planned on this additional state funding and asked for less money than it was allowed for the Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) Levy that was renewed in February 2018.
School districts rely on local levy funds to fund operations, programs, staff, technology and classroom space – all items that are not funded by the state. The McCleary Plan does not provide all the funding needed for students and schools. In fact, the legislature authorizes districts to collect local levy dollars for items not funded by the state.
Impact fees are collected and approved by each jurisdiction. Impact fees represent a small portion of the funds needed for new schools. State law prohibits local governments from using impact fees alone to fund new capacity improvements. Rather, the statute directs that there is a balance between impact fees and other sources of public funds. Current impact fees collected are being used to pay for a portion of the costs of the 2016 Bond Projects located within each jurisdiction. Impact fee revenues will fluctuate each year based on building permits issued within each jurisdiction. Keep in mind that families moving into new developments are not the only source of growing enrollment. Increased births in King County generally have resulted in larger incoming classes moving through the system. Families with young children who live in existing housing do not generate any impact fees.
If the district can secure local funding, the state offers some potential construction funding assistance for the modernization of school facilities on a 30-year cycle, though it only pays for a portion of some of the project components. The district has received between 8 percent and 12 percent of the cost of recent projects in state assistance funding. However, state funds are not guaranteed and are available only if the legislature provides adequate funding for schools that qualify. Despite impact fees and state funding, the district still must come up with most of the cost of new schools, replacement school buildings or additions.
- What is a tax rate?
- How do school district taxes work?
- What is the district’s financial management history?
- How much will the Capital Projects Levy measure cost?
- What happens if our property values increase? Will my taxes go up?
- What is included in my total tax bill?
- Is there a tax break for senior citizens?
School levies and bonds authorize only the collection of the specific dollar amount approved by voters. This fixed amount is shared by local taxpayers and is divided among individual businesses and property owners, based on the value of their property. Only the amount of money approved by voters is collected. As overall assessed value increases, the tax rate decreases.
Lake Washington School District has the highest credit rating assigned to any school district in the state. Standard & Poor’s has assigned the district an AA+ rating. This rating has only been assigned to three districts: Lake Washington, Issaquah and Bellevue. Moody’s Investors Service has assigned the district an Aaa credit rating, the highest rating possible. Less than 0.45 percent of school districts in the nation hold this rating from Moody’s. These high credit ratings allow the district to take advantage of the lowest interest rates possible. In addition, our district consistently has clean state audits.
The district has also received the Meritorious Budget Award (MBA) from the Association of School Business Officials International. This award recognizes excellence in school budgeting presentation.
LWSD has saved taxpayers over $24 million through bond refinancing in the last four years. LWSD has also saved over $11.4 million in utility costs due to its resource conservation management program. Building designs create savings through efficient HVAC systems, solar panels and high efficiency plumbing fixtures. LWSD is a seven-time winner of the King County award for Waste Prevention and Recycling.
This measure authorizes a six-year levy totaling $120 million or $20 million per year for six years. The levy rate will be an average of $0.27 per $1,000 of assessed value. This amount will be offset by a reduction of an average of $0.27 per $1,000 of assessed value in bonds. The district is paying off past bonds and since the 2018 bond measure did not pass, we will not be selling these bonds. The capital projects levy measure combined with past bond measures will maintain the tax rate at or below the estimated 2019 tax rate of $1.15 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The ballot measure specifies a total amount of money that can be raised. If property values in the district rise, the tax rate per $1,000 assessed valuation will decline, as the total amount of taxes collected remains the same.
Tax rates also go down when new residential and commercial property is built in the district. Those new property owners help share the payments, reducing the amount residents have to pay. For example, if the district had only four residents and needed to raise a dollar, it would ask each resident for 25 cents. But if another house was built, it would only need 20 cents from each of the five residents to raise the dollar.
Your tax bill is a combination of state and local taxes. School taxes are a portion, but you also pay for things like hospitals, fire and rescue, libraries, regional transportation packages, and many other services. Individual changes in assessed value or passage of non-education initiatives can affect your total tax bill.
The King County Assessor’s website allows you to view your 2019 taxes through their Parcel Viewer application: https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/gis/Maps/parcel-viewer.aspx.
Yes. Seniors and the disabled may be eligible to receive a reduction in property taxes based on income. More information is available at http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/Common-Questions/Seniorss.aspx
If the Capital Projects Levy does not pass, the district will prioritize what work can be done with the $24 million of remaining balance of 2006 bond project funds. These funds will not be enough to fund the projects needed to provide critical capacity for students. The district has been utilizing many of the strategies recommended by the Long-Term Facility Task Force for when we can’t build fast enough or if we can’t build at all. These recommendations include temporary strategies such as moving district programs, increasing portables, changing boundaries, and reducing special spaces. Strategies recommended but not yet implemented include increasing class size or year-round multi-track schedules. See the complete Long-Term Facility Task Force Recommendations Report here: http://www.lwsd.org/programs-and-services/school-construction/facilities-planning
- Can I still register to vote?
- When are ballots mailed?
- Where can I drop my ballot?
- What is required for this measure to pass?
March 25, 2019 is the deadline to register online or by mail to vote. In person registration for new voters ends April 15, 2019. Visit the King County Elections website for more information: http://kingcounty.gov/depts/elections/how-to-vote/register-to-vote.aspx