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Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Everett

Everett plans biggest-ever bond measure

Times Snohomish County Bureau

The Everett School District will ask voters Feb. 7 to approve a $198.9 million bond measure to build an elementary school and significantly renovate six aging elementary schools.

The measure will be the largest school proposition to ever go before voters in Snohomish County.

Voters also will decide on a $134 million programs-and-operations levy, a replacement for an expiring measure that pays for about one-fifth of the Everett district's daily expenses, including teacher salaries, textbooks, transportation, athletics and staff development.

School Board members last week gave preliminary approval to the 20-year bond measure and four-year operations levy and were to finalize both ballot measures last night.

Everett serves about 18,300 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 25 schools.

Passage of the bond and levy measures would cost district property owners $499 per $100,000 of assessed value. District residents now pay $501 per $100,000, but the existing levy will expire when the new one is due to kick in, and collections for bonds approved in 2002 will decrease over time.

Both measures would require a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

The district had considered a $178 million bond measure and a $20 million capital levy to pay for the construction projects. A capital levy would have lower interest payments than a bond measure because of a shorter payback period.

But a private polling firm retained by the Everett Citizens Levy Committee, a volunteer group working to pass the measures, found that voters were more familiar with the use of bonds to finance construction. Voters also said they would be less likely to support three tax measures than two, committee Chairwoman Karen Madsen said.

Madsen said a survey of about 400 registered voters found strong support for the district's proposed projects.

Passage of the construction bond measure would provide money for substantial remodeling at Garfield, Jefferson, Monroe, Silver Lake, View Ridge and Whittier elementary schools. The schools are among the district's oldest buildings and have had only minor updates in the past 40 years, district spokeswoman Gay Campbell said.

The measure also would pay for a new elementary school on property adjacent to Gateway Middle School in a rapidly growing area east of Mill Creek.

In addition, the measure would build a second gym at North Middle School, the sole district middle school with only one gym; purchase property for a future elementary and future middle school; update computer systems; and replace roofs, upgrade heating and improve earthquake safety at other schools.

Everett officials have said that south-end schools are becoming increasingly crowded. They will exceed their student capacity by 2009 without new construction, facilities director Mike Gunn said.

To date, the largest school-bond measure on a Snohomish County ballot was a $171.6 million proposal that Marysville district voters rejected twice this year.

Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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