Kent School bond issue passing on second try

Voters in the Kent School District were approving a $252 million bond measure, identical to the one that failed by 218 votes in April.

Initial results released by the King County Elections Office on Tuesday night had the measure passing with 25,060 votes (65.24 percent) in favor and 13,350 votes (34.76 percent) against.

The measure required 60-percent-plus-one-vote approval.

Funds will be used to improve existing facilities and reduce overcrowding by replacing Covington Elementary School and building a new elementary school in the Kent Valley, as well as add 20 new classrooms throughout the district.

The measure authorizes the replacement of retiring bonds, so the district’s Debt Service Fund levy of $1.41 per $1,000 of assessed property value won’t increase.

Kent School Board President Karen DeBruler said it was relieving to have the bond passed on the second try. A small group of school district staff, board members and supporters gathered at the Golden Steer Steak n’ Rib House on Kent’s East Hill to wait for election results.

“We have been talking about not if, but when, we passed it, so we had this positive thing going in,” she said. “We did put a lot more effort in to this one. We knew we needed to.”

In June, the Kent School Board agreed to put the measure back on the ballot.

This time around, the district ramped up its efforts of getting information out to voters explaining the proposition.

By law, district resources cannot be used to promote the measure, but the district can run an informational campaign. Citizens for Kent Schools, a political action committee separate from the district, was formed to promote the bond issue.

The district sent a mailer explaining the measure to residents and also has information about the measure in additional languages, as well as information on how to register to vote, and submitted a statement for the county voter pamphlet, which it did not do in the last election.

A Citizens’ Bond Review Committee looked at 262 projects submitted by schools and the maintenance department and recommended 76 of those as top priorities.

Projects funded by the bond include:

• $160 million to help reduce overcrowding with the construction of the two new elementary buildings and additional classrooms where needed.

• $26.4 million for safety improvements, including new fire alarms at eight schools, upgrading parking and drop-off zones at five schools, new door locks and hardware at five schools, and new ADA access ramps at seven schools.

• $24.3 million to increase energy efficiency, including upgrades to heating and ventilation systems at 11 schools and upgrades to energy management systems at nine schools.

• $23.6 million to remodel and upgrade schools, including renovations of outdoor athletic facilities at 10 schools.

District spokesman Chris Loftis said he expected to be break ground on the new Covington Elementary in early 2017.

“We haven’t sited for the other school yet,” Loftis said.

The next step is to prioritize the other projects, which will take place in the next five to seven years, Loftis said.

Every school in the district will receive some type of upgrade remodel.

“If we tried to do it all at one time, the whole district would be a construction zone,” he said.