What will West Seattle get from BEX IV levy? Toplines from School Board work session

In hopes of more context on where the BEX-IV levy plan stands, we went to the School Board work session at district HQ in SODO, following up on the new “draft” $734 million proposal spotlighted here this morning. It has just wrapped up after two hours (half an hour longer than it was scheduled to run) – here are the main points we found noteworthy:

The price tag is up $39 million from the last draft, said district manager Lucy Morello, because of more precise estimates received, including a lower cost for the new Schmitz Park and a higher cost for the new Arbor Heights, which might require pilings in the soil, as well as some other costs such as the price of making sure every classroom in the district has wireless-Internet access.

The higher overall cost was a source of some consternation, starting early on, when board member Harium Martin-Morris said he’s “nervous” about $734 million price tag and thinks it should be closer to $650 million, balancing the needs with what they think the community will approve. Assistant superintendent Pegi McEvoy said staff is nervous too and aware they might result in “overbuilding.” (Toward meeting’s end, she stressed that what’s in the draft is “options,” not “recommendations,” and that this entire process constitutes “planning in public,” and that they hope to keep hearing input from both board members and community members.)

Other notes:

NEW ARBOR HEIGHTS – AND CURRENT REPAIRS TO THE CURRENT CAMPUS: Board member Betty Patu asked during a hasty rundown of the bullet points whether that still is not scheduled to open till 2018. Yes, it was confirmed, 2018 is what’s currently proposed. “I guess my point is,” she began, “we’ve heard a lot of parents talking about that, and … is that building really safe for kids going there right now, as dilapidated as that building is?” McEvoy said there was a tour a few weeks ago and they noted more “high-level water spots and mold” and have been trying to find the source of the leak but now have found it. “They’ve been doing the cleanup, replaced those particular pipes, so we hope we are addressing those particular concerns parents had. But – we could move them to an interim site before the 2018 opening. But as you see with our cash flow issues, our question is – how do we do this?” McLaren then said “other issues will arise in the interim, and that’s what parents, and staff, are talking about.” She sought to clarify that the matter of getting Schmitz Park students out of portables without bathrooms was what had pushed back the new Arbor Heights, and she asked if it would be possible to “make Schmitz Park more viable over the long term” by putting in “wet portables.” Morello said it was a question of whether seats were needed in Madison area first, or Denny area. “Sure we could do anything, we could put a portable out there with restrooms, it’s a point of whether you want half a school with a portable restroom versus Arbor Heights, or do you fix Arbor Heights to something that is suitable, address some of the issues they have, and do Genesee Hill first … I think we have t look at some of the issues and compare them.” She thought the construction window might be up to two years because of the pilings, and that could mean that the school goes into Boren in 2916. “I think we need to look at globally all the issues surrounding Schmitz Park and all the issues surrounding Arbor Heights …” What about Fairmount Park? McLaren asked, possibly meaning some capacity relief for the north West Seattle area.

DISTRICT TAKING BACK HUGHES: Even before they got to the West Seattle part of the presentation, Smith-Blum said during discussion of another taking-back-of-leased-building discussion that she is “deeply concerned about doing the right thing” for Westside. Moments later, it was described as a “fairly straightforward project … logistically” by a district manager. Hughes would be projected to open as a 304-seat elementary in 2016. But then, Hughes came up again in the context of the next paragraph:

SURPLUS OR SHORTFALL: If projections don’t change, and the BEX IV proposal doesn’t change, in 2020, West Seattle would have 688 surplus elementary seats and 98 surplus middle-school seats, district managers say. That could mean “maybe we don’t reopen Hughes … or maybe we reopen Hughes and Roxhill moves to Hughes” … Morello said – keep in mind, none of that is in the plan, and she was speaking speculatively. Some board members warned about reading anything into the slide with “surpluses” listed for many areas, at least until they get June enrollment figures. McLaren asked, “why are they going to be so reliable, compared to the figures we’ve gotten so far?” Dr. Tracy Libros, enrollment manager, was brought up to answer that one. She said the previous updates included just a “portion” of available information, and right now they are making a variety of adjustments that will be “the input for the new 5-year enrollment projections.”

ARE THE NUMBERS ACCURATE? That segued to Carr saying, “My gut tells me, a lot of what we are seeing is driven by the current housing market, a lot of families’ mortgages are under water, if the economy starts to tip a little bit, I have this gut-level fear that the tide’s going to turn and we’re going to have a bunch of buildings in progress, and leave us with a lot of extra capacity that’s really shameful.” McEvoy said they’re trying to find “multiple validations” of the trend.

NEW ELEMENTARY IN DOWNTOWN SEATTLE? Earlier in the presentation, one controversial BEX possibility – mentioned a few times during last week’s West Seattle community meeting at Roxhill – came up. Board member Kay Smith-Blum said she thought the $32 million proposed for a new downtown elementary didn’t need to be spent in “this cycle.” Board member Carr questioned the demographic data suggesting there might be a future need, describing herself as “skeptical” given that it is coming from people hired by real-estate businesses and others who might use it as a tool to sell residences in that area.

A couple of West Seattle side notes:

MIDDLE COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL MOVING OUT OF SOUTH SEATTLE COMMUNITY COLLEGE: It’s a little-known fact that West Seattle has a third public high school – Middle College, at South Seattle Community College on West Seattle’s Puget Ridge. It’s related to an educational program that is headquartered elsewhere in the district, it was noted here today, and in response to a question from West Seattle board member Marty McLaren, McEvoy confirmed that they are looking for space to move the program and it will be leaving SSCC.

SANISLO LUNCHROOM: Though it hasn’t come up previously in the process one page of the district presentation mentions spending $17 million for “lunchrooms” and lists four schools, with Sanislo the only one in West Seattle; Morello described it as a “cafeteria addition.”

BOUNDARY CHANGES: Right now, those are envisioned districtwide for 2014-2015, according to this afternoon’s presentation.

And overall:

HOW MUCH WILL BEX IV COST TAXPAYERS? The current level would raise what a taxpayer pays by about half – 70 cents per $1,000 assessed value right now, to $1.05 for a $750 million or so levy. Framed another way, if you have a $400,000 home, the current levy rate would cost you $280/year, while the proposed $750 million or so rate would cost $420/year.

WHAT’S NEXT: In June, the district is expecting new enrollment projections, as mentioned several times by McEvoy. If those projections vary dramatically from what they’re working with now, it could mean major changes for this plan. The district says it will have another round of community meetings in September, before finalizing the levy package in October and putting it before voters next February.

11 Replies to "What will West Seattle get from BEX IV levy? Toplines from School Board work session"

  • me May 9, 2012 (8:52 pm)

    I will always vote no to giving SPS any money. (And yes, unfortunately I have a child in SPS)

  • Rod Clark May 9, 2012 (9:12 pm)

    The current BEX IV proposal will not build as many permanent classrooms as are needed throughout the district. By 2020, district predictions have about half as many students housed in portables as are housed in portables today.
    When considering the district’s “surplus” numbers, keep in mind that the surpluses in today’s presentation are not surpluses of permanent classrooms. They are the sum of the deficit of permanent classrooms plus the extra capacity added by retaining a large number of portable buildings in widely varying condition.

  • Have faith May 9, 2012 (9:28 pm)

    SPS is finally making some good decisions! I like all the recent positive changes.

  • Band geek's mom May 9, 2012 (10:39 pm)

    Throwing $32M at a downtown school is pure pork. Smith-Blum thinks that “put an international school in there and downtown workers will be bringing their kids in droves.” How? Walking or busing to the school, then walking to light rail or bus to the park and ride? At night? Keep cops on bikes close so no drug deals go down? Play in the fenced grassy area?

    Not likely.

  • sps parent May 10, 2012 (6:33 am)

    a school downtown? why not! we’re a CITY not a town. Where do you think kids that live in NYC go to school? They use the subway, buses, taxis or walk.

  • boy May 10, 2012 (9:21 am)

    Always the samething. We need more money. Well we the people have been throwing money into this endless pit and still the results are the same. How much is enough. 15 tho per kid, 20 tho per kid, 30 tho per kid. Well you get my point. And while were at it you don’t think any of this money will go to pay the 50 million SPS still owes on thier new office palace.

  • parent and citizen May 10, 2012 (11:10 am)

    With all due respect to the importance of bathrooms …
    Arbor Heights was without HEAT last winter. There were many days when classroom temperatures were below 50 degrees. Kids can not learn when they are that cold. If the school were a prison, the ACLU would be filing a lawsuit!

    There are too many needs and not enough money so priorities will be tough to work through.

    To those who are inclined to say “no” (ESPECIALLY those who have kids in schools in the district) please do not punish the kids by with holding the funds they need and don’t punish the current admin for the sins of the admins who came before. Good progress and accountability measures have been put in place. Perhaps the benefit of the doubt is called for?

    To the seniors who complain they are being taxed out of their homes … who paid to educate your children?

    The current funding for schools is not right or fair but it is what we have right now. Fund the schools or fund the prison system – you can’t have it both ways.

  • 2012 Kindergartener Parent May 10, 2012 (11:43 am)

    Gotta love the board and staff’s distrust of their own numbers, and belief that the suburbs rule. I personally would rather keep my 4 person HH in our 1140 SF house until I’m forced into a sanitarium, rather than move to Redmond. WSB, thanks for attending and ongoing attention to school news.

  • Old School Music May 10, 2012 (8:51 pm)

    I am so glad that you reported on the Middle College High School site in West Seattle, MCHS- South Seattle Community College. MCHS – South has been there for twenty years.
    The first site was at Seattle Central Community College; MCHS – South was the second branch to open. The Seattle Central site no longer exists so MCHS – South is now the oldest of the four sites.

    • WSB May 10, 2012 (9:16 pm)

      I’m hoping to find out more about this; talked with Marty McLaren about it a bit afterward. Someone had sent me a note recently asking about a “rumor” to that effect and this was the first I had heard of it since that note … TR

  • Ms. Sparkels May 14, 2012 (11:26 am)

    I have 2 kids in SPS and like “me” I will vote no on this levy. As “boy” noted the SPS administration are terrible money managers and I am loathe to hand them more money to be lost, embezzeled and otherwise p*ssed away.

    “parent and citizen” – IF the State Auditors office re-audited SPS and declaired they’ve finally put in adaquate internal control to ensure they will never again hemarrage money through unknown leaks, then I would agree to “not punish” the current administration for the sins of the prior – but I have no faith in what appears to be a competely corrupt corporate culture.

    And will everyone please stop with the “don’t punish the kids” plea! We’re not “punishing” the kids, the SPS administration is failing them and no matter how much money we’ve given them they continue to do so. So lets stop throwing good money after bad.

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