To everyone who will listen, Spokane Public Schools officials have spent the last few months talking about their hopes for the future.
Those hopes are wrapped up in a $495 million bond that’s on next week’s ballot.
The product of a unique partnership with the city of Spokane and the Spokane Public Library, it will change the face of education for more than 30,000 students by easing K-3 overcrowding and moving sixth-graders into middle schools.
To accomplish that, the district would build three new middle schools while replacing three others at Glover, Shaw and Sacajawea. It would add a cafeteria and commons area at Lewis and Clark High School, additions at the Libby Center and On Track Academy, replace Albi Stadium and fund other improvements throughout the district.
If approved by at least 60 percent of district voters, it would cost 98 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation from 2019 through 2024.
And because property tax rates are scheduled to decline by $2.20 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2019 – thanks to the landmark McCleary decision – taxpayers would see a net $1.22 per $1,000 reduction in taxes.
Also on the ballot is a $77 million bond that would remodel or replace seven libraries. Some of those are dependent on passage of the school bond.
“We’ve been out for a couple of months doing as many presentations as we can,” said Brian Coddington, the district’s director of community relations and communications.
“We believe it’s important to make sure that people get their questions answered,” Coddington said.
There have been plenty of questions: on the need for the middle schools, which represent about three-quarters of the bond’s price tag; the effects of the McCleary decision; the sequence in which the new middle school buildings would be built; the library additions that are part of a separate-but-related city bond measure; and of course the stadium.
“People have been receptive, and they’ve given us good feedback,” Coddington said.
The bond includes $31 million for a new 5,000-seat stadium, which will be located either on the current Albi site or downtown, just east of the Arena. That decision will ultimately fall to the district board of directors, but the city placed an advisory vote on the ballot that asks where voters would prefer to locate the new stadium.
The stadium would be built only if the larger bond passes.
Spokane has a strong record of passing bonds and levies. In 2015, voters passed a $145 million bond with a 69.5 percent “yes” vote.
The margin was closer in 2009, when a $288 million bond received 62.7 percent approval.
The bond’s prospects could be affected by other factors, including a projected high turnout for national midterm elections, the sheer size of the bond and the inclusion of money for the stadium.
Should it fail, the district has several options. It could resubmit the bond in February – perhaps without the stadium option – or make other deletions to a new bond proposal.
Even if the bond passes, the board would still need to decide on a stadium site. Members are “waiting to see what voters have to say,” superintendent Shelley Redinger said recently.
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