Neon green signs are popping up across Federal Way, urging citizens to “vote yes” for schools.
In a special election Feb. 14, the school district will ask voters to approve two separate levy proposals. The Mirror recommends voting yes for both proposals. Healthy schools are a critical component of a community’s quality of life. The proposals are both necessary and a prudent use of taxpayer money. The breakdown:
Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) levy
This 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 toward basic education. About 11 percent goes to support students with special needs, 8 percent supports transportation, and 2 percent goes toward the English Language Learner (ELL) program. The school district anticipates the tax rate for the EPO levy would be $4.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
There is a chance the Legislature could cut levy equalization assistance (LEA). If that occurs, there will be an increase of about 75 cents per $1,000 valuation for property owners on this levy.
Capital levy to rebuild FWHS
A six-year $60 million construction levy will help rebuild the aging Federal Way High School. The city’s namesake high school needs this facelift and improved learning environment.
The district has already socked away nearly $50 million of the proposed $110 million project. Some of the money will be earmarked to help build play structures and play areas at 19 of the district’s elementary schools. The district says this capital levy will be less costly to taxpayers because there will be no interest payments involved. The school district anticipates the tax rate for the capital levy would be 90 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
While the aging school does not appear to be falling down, it is meeting minimum fire and safety standards. It is crowded with narrow halls, which are neither conducive to long-term improvements in learning environment nor to the safety of students and faculty in the event of an emergency evacuation. A choice to build a new school at “a price we can get now and which will never be lower” seems to be a rational decision.
The district consistently demonstrates good financial stewardship for construction projects, which typically finish on time and under budget.