When residents cast their ballots in this Nov. 7 general election, the stakes are much higher than just electing new city and county representatives.
For Federal Way Public Schools, $450 million to rebuild, expand or modernize dilapidated and overcrowded schools is on the line. The improvements target eight schools — Olympic View, Lake Grove, Mirror Lake, Star Lake and Wildwood elementary schools, Totem and Illahee middle schools, and Thomas Jefferson High School — along with Memorial Stadium.
That measure is even more important considering the large hurdle the school district must overcome: voter turnout.
A supermajority of voters is needed for the bond measure to pass, which means 60 percent of the votes — rather than a simple majority of 50 percent plus one — must be in favor of the measure. The voter turnout must also exceed 40 percent of the number of voters who participated in the last general election in the district. According to King County Elections, in the Nov. 8 2016, election, 53,252 votes were cast within the Federal Way School District boundaries. So, the minimum turn-out required is 21,301 votes. For the school district’s bond to pass, at least 12,781 yes votes are needed.
Those are very high stakes, indeed.
The school district faces other hurdles. Although the bond measure will not raise the tax rates for the average voter, there are misconceptions as to how the district can and should pay for construction of new buildings. An important thing for voters to remember is bonds build buildings and levies are for learning to pay for educational programs, adequate staffing levels and teacher and staff salaries. Even the McCleary decision, and the upcoming changes to educational funding in the state, do not address construction of new buildings. In this state, the burden of raising money to complete projects such as the one proposed in Federal Way falls upon the shoulders of school districts and taxpayers through bond measures. There is no guaranteed funding from the state to be used for capital projects.
So, if Federal Way students are going to have improved schools and the city a new feather in its cap, voter turnout and approval is key. Remember to cast your vote in this general election Nov. 7.