The Puyallup School District board of directors will place two levies on a special election ballot in February.
The board voted unanimously Oct. 21 to move forward with the measures, a four-year, $49.5 million proposal for educational programs and operations replacement, and a six-year, $46 million facility improvements and technology levy.
Brian Fox, a spokesperson for the Puyallup School District, said what is traditionally known as a four-year maintenance operations levy is being rebranded as the educational programs and operations replacement levy.
“This is to help the public understand that it’s not a new tax or new levy,” he said. “It will be replacing the levy that is retiring December 2014. When we use maintenance and operations (as a title), the public is sometimes confused that it’s just for buildings.”
The levy that expires next year makes up 24 percent of the school district’s operating budget, Fox said.
“It’s not only for facilities, but it’s also for teaching, staffing, nurses and instructional assistance,” he said. “It’s equivalent to about 500 full- or part-time staff supported with these levy dollars.”
The approval of the educational programs and operations replacement levy also would mean an investment in textbooks, learning materials and extra-curricular programs.
“It’s everything we do in our day-to-day operations,” Fox said.
If the levy passes, the district wouldn’t begin collecting taxpayer dollars until January 2015. Fox said 3 percent inflation is factored in years two, three and four. The first year would be a total of $49.5 million. In 2016, the collection would be $50.9 million. The remaining two years would be $52.5 million and $54 million, respectively.
Fox said property owners would pay 10 cents more per month, on average, per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or an additional $1.89 per month on a $227,000 home.
The facility improvements and technology upgrades levy would include a 33-cent increase per month, on average, per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $12.28 per month for a $227,000 home, Fox said.
“We’ve failed the last four bonds, and bonds are used to build new buildings,” he said. “We’ve decided to do a facility improvements and technology upgrade, which will also help us to repair outdated and broken stuff. Instead of building a whole new school, we will be able to fix what we already have.”
The improvements would focus on safety and security. One impact would be to ensure seismic upgrades would be made at all buildings, Fox said.
“We’re looking at what will facilitate more security and better health for our students,” he said.
Fox said $40 million of the $46 million would be earmarked for replacement and repairs. The remaining $6 million would support technology upgrades.
“One major project is installing an interactive classroom white board and mounted projectors,” he said. “These have replaced overhead projectors. Only 37 percent of classrooms (in the district) have that technology. So, we want to make it equitable across the district.”
That means an interactive classroom white board would be in every K-12 classroom. Other improvements would include network upgrades.
School board president Chris Ihrig said the improvements levy also would help with building the classroom infrastructure needed to allow for all-day kindergarten district-wide.
“In this levy, it will not only introduce all-day kindergarten throughout the district, but it will also sustain it,” Ihrig said.
Ihrig said state funding can only go so far to provide funding per student.
“In terms of classroom modification, that is up to the district to come up with,” Ihrig said. “This helps us prepare for that.”
Fox said more information about the levies will be made available on the school district website soon. The district’s Connections newspaper, mailed to those who live within its boundaries, will explain the measures. The next publication is later this month, and another will be circulated during the first week of January.
“It’s all about kids having a good education,” Ihrig said. “That’s what the levies are all about.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@ puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.