Questions & Answers

What are we voting on?

There will be just one measure on the ballot in this special election.    It is a re-running of the same Bond that failed to pass in February in which you agree to essentially pay off debt the district incurs for facilities upgrades, improvements and new construction and also comes from your property tax. Funds from bonds are not "classroom dollars".  They are used to improve, replace, remodel or build news schools or any other project the school board and superintendent would like to use it on that falls within the legal definition of capital facilities. 


What does the Bond pay for?

The bond could pay for a number of projects as determined by the school board and Superintendent from additional classroom space such as a new elementary school, classroom additions and portables to a proposed new high school to ease projected overcrowding at Jackson and Cascade.  There are also a number of improvements they could do such as new turf fields at Jackson and Cascade that were delayed in lieu of the new administration building as well as upgrades and remodels of some of the schools.  However, the school board is not bound by the list they present according to language approved by the Everett School Board.  Section 3 reads: 
 If, in the opinion of the Board, the needs of the District change in a manner that results in a circumstance wherein any portion of the above-referenced capital improvements is not required or in the best interests of the District, the Board retains the right not to acquire, construct and install such capital improvements and to reallocate the money originally contemplated therefor to other capital improvements to the District’s facilities deemed more necessary by the Board, or to deposit such money into the District’s Debt Service Fund to make debt service payments on the Bonds outstanding or to call and redeem a portion of the Bonds prior to maturity; provided, any change in use of Bond proceeds shall be in the form and manner required by law.
Section 2 also says: "The District anticipates the receipt of financing assistance from the state of Washington under chapter 28A.525 RCW in the estimated amount of $16,500,000. The proposed capital improvements to be paid for with the financing assistance are unrelated to the Project and may include, but are not limited to, additional work on projects proposed to be paid for with Bond proceeds, modernizing and equipping the District’s existing educational and administrative support facilities,constructing and equipping new District educational and administrative support facilities..."
These sections are important because they give the Board of Directors the opportunity to essentially add or subtract projects as desired on the list OR pay the loan back faster.  It also allows them to funnel additional funds into upgrades for administrative facilities without our approval. Nothing forces them to put student needs ahead of their own desires.  These "outs" are what they used to add the $28 million Community Resource Center (administration building) to the list 5 years after the last bond was approved.  Therefore, the list presented in the resolution is flexible according to the desires of the School Board and at the direction of the Superintendent. 

New school board director, Caroline Mason, sent a letter to the Everett Herald saying that "The primary source of funding (for the new district office) came from the State Construction Assistance Fund".  This money could have been used for other projects for student facilities. It was not, as some assume, money they could ONLY use for an administration building.  They have saved it for that purpose, but they saved it while student facilities waited to be upgraded.  

They chose to resubmit the exact same bond language for the second try without any tightening of the parameters of how they can use the money without taxpayer approval.  So, essentially, the bond will pay for whatever the school board and superintendent want to build with the money.  

I heard the district claim that the 2006 bond wasn't repurposed for the administration building.  Is that true?

The fact is that the original 2006 Bond proposition, Resolution 842, was amended on July 5, 2011 to ADD the district office building and the tracks at Jackson and Cascade to the list of projects constructed in the 2006 bond.  If, in fact, the district's claim that the money used on the new administration building had absolutely nothing to do with the tax payer dollars approved in the 2006 bond, then why did Resolution 842 that you, the voter, approved in 2006, have to be referenced as amended in the new Resolution 1022?  You can read it HERE.   It sure appears like the district office building WAS, in fact, connected to the 2006 bond or else they could have just used whatever money was available without amending the Resolution and adding the project(s) to the list the voters approved in 2006.  The apparently invoked Section 3 and have been saving the State Construction Assistance Funds for their administration building rather than using them for student facility needs.  That clause allows them to use money meant to make our bond dollars do more for our students on administrative wants.  


I see that a new "Phase 1" High School is on the list.  Do we need one and how much would it cost?

Last Fall, a series of public meetings regarding this part of the bond concluded that the cost of a new small high school to be built at the southern edge of the district boundaries would cost approximately $100 million. The school would not be constructed for approximately 10 years.  

Projections on enrollment are based on a number of factors commonly used by enrollment experts.  However, in the 90's, a Seattle Times article said that the district was projecting 20,000 students by 2000.  We did not reach that enrollment projection in 2000 and have yet to 14 years later.  According to district officials at the public meeting, it was unclear if options such as increased participation in Running Start, changes to the way students attend school via technology and the possibility of the approval of a Charter High School were taken into consideration when presenting the need for additional high school space.  Other districts, such as Mukilteo, are considering those options as they look at their own overcrowding issues.  

Aside from that, according to the capacity reports from the state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Everett High School is nearly 600 students UNDER capacity.  Bond money from previous years has been invested in improving the facilities of EHS, shouldn't we now try to keep it full of students?

Would the boundaries have to be unusual to fill Everett High School since most of the growth is in the Mill Creek area?

We don't think it needs a boundary change to fill those seats.  We believe it just takes some forward thinking and improvements to educational offerings in the district.  For example, Everett does not offer students the very rigorous International Baccalaureate Program.  About a dozen schools in the state offer this program, and, as one of the biggest districts in the state, we should look at is as a way to improve education for our high school students.  You can read more about the program HERE.  Placing an IB program at Everett High School would draw students from Jackson and Cascade thus relieving some of the numbers there and filling the empty seats at EHS.  

The school board very recently explored adding an IB program to the Everett School District. They have been urged to do so by many in the district.  However, they also recently decided that it was "not a priority at this time" and dropped the matter.  There are no other plans that we're aware of to fill the seats at Everett High School at this time despite having some major upgrades done to the school in the last bond.  

Will my tax rate increase?

That is a simple question with a disappointing answer: it depends.

Unless a bond or levy measure fixes a tax rate (which they don't), your tax rate will only be as stable as your property value and the overall assessed property values in your district.

When we vote to approve bonds and levies, we are giving the district permission to tax us a certain amount of money. This is run through a formula based on the total property tax assessment within the district, resulting in a tax rate of $x.yy  per $1000 assessed property value.

If property values stay the same from year to year, the tax rate will also stay the same. If property values go up, however, your tax rate will go down. If property values go down, your tax rate will go up.

So again, your tax rate is only as stable as your property value. And as a lot of us learned in 2007/2008, property values can change in a hurry.  

They have already estimated that the next bond in 2022 will be over $300 million so who knows what will happen then.  

What happens if the Bond Proposition doesn't pass again?

Some improvements and tech upgrades may be delayed.  But, education will continue as it is now.  A failing bond can, and should, send a powerful message - but the message was apparently lost on this administration and school board.  They have spent the last month scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong. They have called for emails and public comments, but largely ignored all but the "community leaders", district employees and PTA Council friends when it comes to getting to the bottom of the failure.  None offered reasons WHY it may have failed.  They just encouraged the district to run it again as soon as possible.  They know they only need to swing about 300 votes to win and they also know that people may be afraid to vote "no" twice.  Therefore, their efforts will be directed at squeezing just a few more votes out of their connections rather than figuring out why the bond failed to pass for the first time in 18 years.  

We did some research and figured out why it probably failed.  The Everett Herald published our commentary HERE.  It's a matter of TRUST.  We aren't sure the district cares WHY it failed, though, because they put forward the exact same bond language for a vote at the very next available date for another try.  They are only interested in getting it to pass, not understanding why it failed.  

Projects such as the badly needed upgrade to the grass fields at Jackson and Cascade were delayed in lieu of the Administration Building despite the fact that Everett is one of the few districts in the state of it's size that still has grass fields.  Artificial turf is much safer for student athletes and much better for our wet northwest climate.  It makes the athletic fields usable for more than just a season.  Students testified at a board meeting during the discussion to add the administration building to the list of projects on the 2006 Bond that they were seriously injuring themselves on the old fields but the district went ahead and appropriated that money to the new district office building and decided to delay improvements to some student facilities.  

The should lead every voter to ask themselves if the same thing could happen again given the fact that not a single word changed in the new bond.  Integrity matters and bond money is largely assumed by the taxpayers to be appropriated for student needs first.  That isn't always the case.  School boards and Superintendents can really use bond money for any project they think is necessary - and that includes construction on administrative offices.  Think of it as a "blank check" because projects on the "list" that may compel you to support the bond may never actually be done.  

If the bond fails on April 22, the district will have to wait until February 2015 to ask the public again.  However, you will  not see any teacher lay-offs as a result.  Education will continue as usual but projects will be delayed.  However, it's important to remember that none of these projects were going to solve any immediate needs - they are long-term.  So, failing again is not going to have an immediate negative effect and may actually have a positive one because the administration and the school board may finally internalize the message that was sent on February 11.  

How much of my property taxes go to fund schools?  

According to Snohomish County, 42.62% of property taxes in the county go to fund local school districts.  Another 18.78% go to the state to fund schools.   That means that 61.4% of your total property taxes go to education in this state.  

Why are we voting on this again in April?

Good question since the Everett School District must shoulder the cost of a special election. These types of elections could be held on many different dates - including during the last Primary we had in August.  The school district would have saved money holding it during a primary which was already being held.  And, it would have given the school board time to figure out why the last vote failed.  Other districts around the state with failed bonds have delayed their next votes until August.  

However, since a voter's guide will be published during the August Primary election, the district would have had to provide an opposing view to the "For" side of the levy and bond so that voters could find information about any downsides to approving the maximum levy amount despite increased state funding and the largest bond request in the history of the district.  By having a special election in February or April, there is no county voter pamphlet to present both sides of the issue.  This gives the Bond a greater chance of passing since voters receive only information from the district about the issue.  Board Member, Caroline Mason, commented at a public meeting recently that she was afraid the issue would be "confusing" if it was mixed in with other ballot measures and candidates.   But, what she really means is that more voters are bad for the district because more voters means lots of votes from people who are worried more about their taxes than they are about having brand new schools.  

Where can I find out more information?

We invite you to contact Dr. Gary Cohn, our Superintendent, if you have concerns or questions. His office can be reached at  425-385-4018 or 4019. Or, you can email him at Superintendent@everettsd.org with questions or concerns.  Feel free to also contact Jeff Moore, Finance Director for Everett Public Schools. Or, you can contact the Everett School Board with a comment either via email, or attend one of their meetings and make a public comment.  The meeting schedule is online.  Or, you can join the community discussion at The Everett School Board Project.   

You can also read the Citizen's Guide to the Budget for the district HERE.  It contains a summary of our 2013-2014 budget.