Tahoma School Board approves bond measure

Thursday night the Tahoma School Board voted to put a $195 million school bond to voters in the fall.

Thursday night the Tahoma School Board voted to put a $195 million school bond to voters in the fall.

The main project included in the bond is the construction of a new Tahoma High School. Other projects are related to restructuring the district’s other schools as well as security and projects to make schools warm, safe, and dry for students.

The district is anticipating receiving $20 million in matching funds from the state, bringing the total available for projects to $215 million.

The new Tahoma High School is proposed to be built on 35 acres in the Donut Hole, 156 acres of property located of Southeast Kent-Kangley Road and 228th Street Southeast. The Donut Hole is currently home to nine holes of Elk Run Golf Course, a 13-acre county transportation maintenance facility and a large stand of trees. The Donut Hole is currently owned by King County and the district leaders are in talks with King County to purchase 35 acres for the high school.

“We have met with the county and are talking to the county about the purchase of the property,” Maryanski said. “I think I can sum up the county’s attitude: one gentlemen that we’ve met with for over a year said, ‘we’ve been given our marching orders to make this happen.'”

The vote by the board was postponed from last week primarily due to higher costs than expected for preparing the Donut Hole site for the high school. The proposal before the board Thursday night was for $175 million, which was short of the top figure of $243 million that had been estimated for all of the projects the district hoped to do. The district had a list of areas to potentially cut, including warm-safe-dry projects among others, to get to the $175 figure.

“We can’t really know, with the kind of process that we’re forced to go through, what things are going to cost until we actually get going in construction. Even a bid doesn’t guarantee what things are going to cost.” Maryanski said.

The board spent over an hour considering which projects the district should prioritize before settling on the $195 million figure.

“This for us it wasn’t driven on what we think the community will support because we don’t have good data,” Maryanski said during the meeting, in reference to the $175 million figure. “We have no data on the community with the high school as the focus, compared to what we were offering last time.”

With the motion and approval by the board at $195 million — to include the warm-safe-dry projects — which were a stated priority of board members, district administrators now must revise the final project list. District Spokesman Kevin Patterson said that administration will create a list of projects that are considered must have projects and a second list of desired projects to complete as funding allows.

District Finance Director Lori Cloud told the board that at $195 million the estimated cost to the owner of a $300,000 home would be about $509.40 per year, or $42.45 per month.

“Having lived through bond measures for many years with the school system we have never run a bond measure, that I’m aware of, that we actually asked the community to support what we think we needed to move into the future, ever,” Maryanski said. “It’s always been driven by somebody making decisions on what they think a certain percent of the people will vote for and the we always end up in the same situation we are now…We make it work. We always make it work, that’s probably part of our problem because it’s not visible to people in the community.”