Voters in Yelm and Tenino should support their schools, and their children and grandchildren, with a resounding “yes” vote by Feb. 10 for a capital projects levy in Tenino and a bond measure in Yelm.
After two unsuccessful runs last year at a 25-year, $38 million bond measure, Tenino School District supporters have pared back the request to a $7.95 million levy that would be paid off over six years at the tax rate of $1.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Unlike a bond, levy funds can’t be used to build new schools. In Tenino, if the levy passes, the money raised will be used to provide critical upkeep and repairs to aging buildings and sports facilities, to improve student safety on school campuses, and to provide students with essential technology support.
The district is committed to making a concerted effort to create jobs for local vendors and contractors on projects valued at less than $150,000. In a struggling community like Tenino, it’s another good reason to support the levy.
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In Yelm, which faces continued, rapid growth in its school population, a $53.9 million bond measure to support major construction projects, including an on-site replacement of Southworth Elementary School. It was built in 1970 and serves 565 kids in a school built for 378 students. In addition, Yelm Middle School would be replaced and Prairie Elementary School would undergo some major renovation work.
The Yelm bond measure also includes a proposal for a new building at the high school that would serve as a ninth grade campus. The idea is to provide ninth-graders with a welcoming place to transition from middle school to high school. In other school districts where ninth- graders have dedicated space, their school performance has improved and drop-out rates have declined.
The bond measure would cost homeowners 92 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation annually for 21 years. The bond requires a supermajority of 60 percent to pass.
Voters may be confused by all the political debate over public school funding and the challenge the state Legislature faces to meet a state Supreme Court order to fully fund K-12 public education. But no one should be lulled into thinking local levy and bond measures are no longer necessary. They remain a vital ingredient in every school district budget.