Mukilteo School District measures would relieve overcrowding

By Sara Bruestle | Jan 22, 2014
Photo by: Sara Bruestle Students wait in a backed up line for their meal during lunch time at Discovery Elementary. A measure on the February ballot includes plans to expand the multipurpose room and kitchen to the school alleviate the issue. “It takes a long time for kids to get through the lunch line,” said Debra Fulton, executive director of support services for the Mukilteo School District. “They don’t get a lot of time to eat their meal. Maybe eight minutes.”

The Mukilteo School District will ask voters on the Feb. 11 ballot to OK taxes to help support school programs and ease the issue of overcrowding.

“The most fundamental problem facing the school district is growing enrollment,” said district spokesperson Andy Muntz. “We don’t have the space to put the kids.”

If both measures are approved, the estimated tax rate for 2015 is $4.70 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is 20 cents higher than the 2013 rate and 83 cents higher than the estimated 2014 rate.

The owner of a $400,000 home would see their property taxes increase by $332 a year, or $27.67 a month.

Proposition 1 would renew a four-year educational maintenance and operations levy to replace a similar levy approved by voters in 2010, which expires by the end of this year. It is not a new tax.

If voters say yes, the measure would allow the district to collect no more than $40.2 million in 2015, $42.2 million in 2016, $43.2 million in 2017 and $44.2 million in 2018.

The levy pays for programs and activities that are not fully funded by the state, about a fifth of the district’s total operating budget.

Those programs include classroom supplies, library materials, school sports, extracurricular activities, student transportation, instrumental music, new curriculum, teacher salaries and special-needs services.

Although the state Supreme Court has ruled that the Legislature must fund “basic education” by 2018, many programs and activities will still need to be subsidized by local taxes, Muntz said.

Proposition 2 is for the sale of $119.2 million in bonds to finance the construction of new school buildings and to make other infrastructure, technology and security improvements. It requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

If voters approve it, the measure would allow the district to sell municipal bonds and then pay the principal and interest on those bonds with property taxes.

The district would build a new elementary school and an early-learning center for kindergarteners, as well as renovate and add other spaces to reduce overcrowding.

The bonds would also pay for new equipment to improve safety and security, heating and ventilation systems, technology and energy efficiency.

A new school to replace Lake Stickney Elementary, which the district owns and closed in 2003, and an early-learning center adjacent to Fairmount Elementary would accommodate increased enrollment at the elementary level.

“With the infrastructure there, it’s not possible to renovate that building,” said Debra Fulton, executive director of support services for the district. “It’s not an efficient layout and the quality of construction isn’t good.”

Lake Stickney Elementary was built in 1964.

Other spaces in schools throughout the district, like Lake Stickney, are aging and in need of so many repairs or upgrades that they can no longer be used effectively or at all.

The early-learning center would provide the space for full-day kindergarten for about 530 students, relieving the most crowded elementary schools.

Five elementary schools in the district qualified for state-funded full-day kindergarten in 2013-14, but the district could not accept the funding due to lack of classroom space.

“The Legislature has mandated that we have all-day kindergarten for all of our students by 2018, and we don’t have the space to do that now,” said Judy Scwab, president of the Mukilteo School Board.

“This is an opportunity for us to create programs to prepare kindergarteners for first grade in a uniform way.”

Enrollment in Mukilteo’s elementary schools has increased steadily for 10 years and forecasts predict that growth will continue.

In 2003, 6,179 students were enrolled in elementary school in the Mukilteo School District. By 2013, that count had reached 7,118 students, an increase of 939 students.

Eight of the district’s 11 elementary schools now have more than 600 students. For some schools, that’s almost double their capacity.

The largest, Horizon Elementary, has more than 830 students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade. Even with the addition of portables, these schools are over capacity.

“Core facilities are under a lot of stress,” Schwab said. “The libraries, the play grounds, the restrooms and places where the kids play indoors or have their meals are under a lot of pressure.”

The latest forecast predicted that elementary enrollment would reach about 7,300 by 2017. However, student growth has already outpaced it. Actual enrollment in 2013 was higher than what was predicted for 2014.

Although the planned capital projects would help ease the overcrowding issue, they won’t fix it.

Even with the new schools and added space through renovations, the district would still need all of its portables, Fulton said.

“We would need another three elementary schools to get rid of portables and prepare for growth, but we don’t have space, we don’t have land,” she said. “That’s a lot of money to ask the community to come up with.”

If Prop 1 doesn’t pass, the levy would not be collected in 2015. It would force cuts to the 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets.

When a similar measure failed in 2000, the district developed a revised budget that would have eliminated about 100 staff positions, as well as all school sports and activities. That budget was not implemented, however, because voters approved the levy later that year.

If Prop 2 fails, none of the capital projects will go forward. The district would need to look at other ways to reduce overcrowding, such as adding more portables, alternating schedules or implementing year-round school.

“That puts a lot of pressure on the core facilities again,” Schwab said.

Measures to build a new elementary school were on the ballot in 2006 and 2008, but they fell short of the supermajority required for approval.

Should voters OK the levy but reject the bonds, their property taxes would be 67 cents per $1,000 less than if both measures pass.

Ballots will be mailed to voters Jan. 23 and must be postmarked by Feb. 11.

For more information, go to the school district’s website at www.mukilteo.wednet.edu.

Capital projects in need of bond funding

These are the projects the Mukilteo School District would like to complete if the bond passes:

• Build a new elementary school on the site of the old Lake Stickney Elementary, which the district owns and closed in 2003;

• Build an early-learning center for kindergarteners adjacent to Fairmount Elementary;

• Remodel a building at Explorer Middle School to provide space for some of the programs currently running at the old Lake Stickney site;

• Expand the multipurpose room and kitchen at Discovery Elementary;

• Construct a new girls locker room at Mariner High School;

• Update science classrooms throughout the district;

• Install security initiatives district-wide;

• Build a training safety room and team meeting room at the Kamiak High School athletic fields;

• Replace aging track and field surfaces at both Mariner and Kamiak;

• Replace deteriorating grassy fields at Harbour Pointe and Voyager middle schools with artificial turf and rubberized tracks;

• Provide a wireless network for all district schools;

• Upgrade the district’s aging telephone system;

• Purchase wireless computers or tablets student use;

• Modernize the gym at Olympic View Middle School;

• Improve the locker rooms at Explorer;

• Expand the music building at Olympic View;

• Improve the band room and add storage at Harbour Pointe;

• Cover the outdoor atriums and make improvements to the libraries at Mukilteo and Picnic Point elementary schools;

• Replace inefficient heating and ventilation control systems at Mariner;

• Replace boilers at Olivia Park Elementary and Kamiak; and

• Install digital heating and ventilation control systems at Discovery and Olivia Park.

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