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 needs more classrooms for students to support our rapid enrollment growth.
    • Our highest priorities are creating safe schools and maintaining quality classrooms.
    • 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. 

    General Information

    Why does our district need a levy?

    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 Task 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.

    What will the proposed levy pay for?

    The April 2019 Capital Projects Levy will provide:

    • Classroom space for 1,052 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.

    What are the estimated project costs?

    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 methods recommended by a community-based task force. The district will use $24 million of remaining 2006 bond project funds toward these projects funds resulting in the levy request of $120 million.

    When would the additions be completed?

    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

    How do you know how many more students are coming?

    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 the 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.

    Does the school district regularly collaborate with cities to monitor and plan for increasing school district growth?

    The district along with our cities and counties regularly collaborate to plan. We have quarterly meetings with leadership and board/council members to discuss current issues. Staff meet annually with Cities regarding updates on 20-year comprehensive plan and growth targets. We incorporate comprehensive plan change into our short and long-term development and enrollment projections by school. Our facilities department and cities conduct annual meetings as required by the GMA and King County Countywide Planning Policies. These are collaborative meetings where district and jurisdictions can discuss code and zoning changes, identify pending and potential development activity, and work on potential areas for school siting and understanding district needs. In addition, we have joint use agreements with our cities for joint use of facilities and fields. The cities have made capital improvements to district fields for use by both the district and city programs.

    How accurate are the district’s enrollment projections?

    The district’s long-term projections are within 1-2% of actual enrollment. A 1% margin represents about 300 students district wide or about 5 students at an elementary school or 19 students at a high school. These margins are very reasonable for a district of our size.

    How does LWSD’s enrollment growth compare to neighboring districts?

    LWSD is one of the fastest growing district in the Puget Sound Area. A total of 6,218 more students are in LWSD schools today than 10 years ago, representing 26 percent growth. This uncommon growth trajectory requires ongoing classroom additions and buildings in order to provide capacity for students.

    LWSD is one of the fastest growing school districts in Puget Sound


    Can’t you just add more portables if you need more space?

    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.

    Why do you have to add on to Lake Washington High School now when the school was just completed six years ago?

    Initial planning for the scope of the new Lake Washington High School 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.

    How much will the Capital Projects Levy measure cost?

    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

    Do the additions provide additional classrooms for new students or is this to address current overcrowding?

    The permanent classroom additions proposed in the April 2019 Capital Projects Levy do both – address current overcrowding and provide additional classroom space for new students projected to enroll in the next few years.

    What will happen to the portables at the schools slated for additions?

    The elementary schools that will receive additions will keep their portables as they will still be needed to accommodate current enrollment and additional growth. The portables at Lake Washington High School are scheduled to be moved to Kirkland Middle School and Rose Hill Middle School upon completion of the LWHS addition to accommodate growing enrollment  at the middle schools.

    Why doesn't the levy include rebuilding and enlarging schools?

    The projects included in the upcoming levy are all permanent classroom additions that would provide critical classroom space in our schools. Complete rebuilds and enlargement projects are still very important and would need to be part of a larger bond measure. 

    When will the next bond be? What will be on it?

    LWSD will re-convene the Long-Term Facilities Advisory Committee to determine future project needs and funding strategy. There will continue to be a need to pass bonds to address our rapidly growing student enrollment, address aging facilities and continue to provide quality learning environments and experiences for our students. The next bond measure would most likely be in 2022.

    How does LWSD ensure that construction is done in a cost-effective way?

    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.

    Critical Projects for Safety

    How will the Capital Projects Levy impact safety?

    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.) 

    School Funding

    Why does the district have to ask for money?

    Neither State nor Federal money is available for the bulk of construction costs. Local districts are responsible for raising their own money through levies and bonds to provide for additional classrooms needed due to enrollment growth. 

    Didn’t the state fully fund education with the McCleary Plan?

    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.

    Don’t developer impact fees help pay for new schools needed for growing enrollment?

    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.

    For more information regarding impact fees see the current Capital Facilities plan and the Impact Fee FAQ for more details.

    Doesn’t the state provide money for new school buildings?

    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? 

    The tax rate is the rate at which the County must collect taxes to reach the approved tax. The tax rate is expressed in terms of an amount per $1000 of assessed value. Property taxes are collected based on the value of residential and commercial property.

    How do school district taxes work?

    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.

    What is the district’s financial management history?

    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 for the past two school years. 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.

    How much will the Capital Projects Levy measure cost?

    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.

    Capital Projects Levy Cost

    The 2019 tax rate and beyond will remain level. If Assessed Value increases, then the rate 
    per $1,000 of AV will decline as the district only collects the amounts voters approve.


    What happens if our property values increase? Will my taxes go up?

    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. Watch the below “School Bonds and Levies and Property Values” video to learn more:

    What is included in my total tax bill?

    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:

    Is there a tax break for senior citizens?

    Yes. Seniors and the disabled may be eligible to receive a reduction in property taxes based on income. More information is available at 

    How does the LWSD tax rate compare to neighboring districts?

    LWSD’s total tax rate is low compared to most other school districts in King County. Below is a chart with 2019 tax rates per $1,000 of assessed value.

    Tax Rate Comparison


    Does the district collect more money when property values rise?

    No, the district is only allowed to collect the total dollar amount authorized by voters and does not receive more funds when property values rise. The fixed amount approved by voters is shared by local taxpayers and is divided among individual businesses and property owners, based on the hvalue of their property. Only the amount of money approved by voters is collected. As overall assessed value increases, the tax rate decreases. See the "How do school district taxes work?" and "What happens if our property values increase? Will my taxes go up?" questions also.

    Impact on Schools

    What will happen if the measure does not pass?

    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 projects. 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:



    Can I still register to vote?

    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:

    When are ballots mailed?

    Ballots and voters’ pamphlets will be mailed by King County on April 3, 2019. 

    Where can I drop my ballot?

    Ballot drop-off locations are posted by King County Elections before each election.

    What is required for this measure to pass?

    Levies pass with a simple majority – 50 percent plus one vote.