By the numbers: Levy will help rebuild Federal Way High School

If approved by voters in February, a six-year $60 million capital levy will help rebuild the aging Federal Way High School. - Mirror file photo
If approved by voters in February, a six-year $60 million capital levy will help rebuild the aging Federal Way High School.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

The vote for Federal Way Public Schools' two levy proposals is fast approaching.

In a Feb. 14 special election, the district seeks approval for an Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) levy as well as a capital levy.

The EPO levy will continue what Federal Way taxpayers are already paying for the general operations of their schools. The school district seeks a $53 million levy that will last two years. The current levy, which was approved three years ago, expires in 2012. About 80 percent of this levy money goes to basic education.

If approved by voters in February, a six-year $60 million capital levy will help rebuild the aging Federal Way High School. Some of the money will be earmarked to help build play structures and play areas at 19 of the district’s elementary schools.

Assistant superintendent of business services Sally McLean took the opportunity at the school board's Jan. 10 meeting to break down the capital levy by the numbers. McLean explained a number of the assumptions and variables going into the $60 million for renovating Federal Way High School, should voters approve the funding.

"You have to balance the concept of what it is you think you might want, with what it is you think you might need," McLean said. "It's not really different from doing your own home remodel. You might want granite countertops, but you might end up with formica, because you might decide the flooring is more important."

McLean said there are two major components to developing a capital project budget, those being "soft costs" and what are referred to as maximum allowable construction costs (MACC). Soft costs include things like expected sales tax, paying for architects and engineers, permitting costs and furniture, fixtures and equipment. McLean said soft costs will comprise about one-third of the budget for this project.

MACC are the costs that influence the bid process, and also the design and specifications of the building, McLean said.

At a more micro level, McLean said there are four other variables being factored into the district's capital budget.

"In the capital budget, we make some assumptions, or some estimates about the number of students we're going to serve. The square footage that will be built per student, the costs per square foot, and construction inflation, those are really the four major variables within the capital budget," McLean said.

McLean said the district is anticipating serving 1,600 students in the renovated Federal Way High School. The district is planning to have 140 square feet per student, with the cost per square foot being anticipated at $265. The school district is anticipating an expected construction inflation rate of 3 percent per year, McLean said.

A citizen earlier in the evening made a public comment on the district's anticipated costs, citing a statistic that the national average for MACC costs for a new high school is in the $45 million range. McLean acknowledged this, but countered by saying Washington state presents its own challenges for new construction.

"There are a variety of differences from state to state. Washington has the highest minimum wage in the nation. That certainly has an impact on construction costs. Washington state has very strong environmental standards, particularly in regards to water. There are many things to consider when you're looking at costs. It will cost us $110 million to rebuild and renovate Federal Way High School," she said.

Learn more

For more information on the capital levy, visit

Special election details

The Feb. 14 special election for both levy proposals will cost the school district about $200,000, according to the district. The special election is necessary because teachers must be notified by May 15 if they will have a contract for the next school year, and teachers’ salaries are wrapped up in the EPO levy, according to the district.

If Federal Way voters reject either levy, the district can present the proposals to voters on one more ballot in 2012, likely in April. Both proposals need a simple majority (50 percent plus one) to pass.

The ballots and voters pamphlets for the special election will be mailed together on Jan. 25. Voting for the Feb. 14 special election will be done entirely by mail. For mail and online voter registration and transfers for the special election, the deadline is Jan. 16.


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