Board approves Prop. 1 for Feb. 13, 2024, election; Capital Levy to restore, improve, replace
On Monday, October 16, the Puyallup School Board made the unanimous decision to present a Capital Levy proposition to voters on the February 13, 2024, special election ballot.
The Capital Budget Conundrum
Puyallup School District's (PSD) capital budget, responsible for major maintenance, renovations, and construction projects, is projected to be depleted by 2026. Funds from bonds and levies are needed to adequately restore, improve and replace aging and failing systems and infrastructure.
A Joint Responsibility: Community and State
Early in September, the Washington State Supreme Court clarified a pivotal point: school construction funding is not solely the state's responsibility or part of "basic education." Instead, it is a collaborative effort between local communities and the State Legislature.
Major public school system replacements and upgrades such as HVAC, plumbing, and roofs depend on voter-approved levies.
Needs for Expanding Student Population
Our schools need funds to address critical building and system maintenance issues, to accommodate our growing student population, and to maintain aging facilities. The implications of the Washington State Supreme Court's decision ripple through the state and directly affect our Puyallup schools.
As we look towards the future, we are concerned by the data, which indicates that some elementary and high schools (if not already) will be over capacity. PSD projects that our junior highs will exceed the capacity of those schools in 2028. Currently, the School Capacity and Utilization Task Force is investigating solutions for classroom capacity impacts.
Maintaining Aging Infrastructure
A significant portion of our capital budget goes toward maintaining our aging school buildings and equipment. With steadily increasing enrollment, wear and tear on our facilities has intensified. To care for our district assets and ensure all students can access high-quality learning environments, capital levies are needed to fund those areas not already funded by the state.
906 Critical Projects on the Horizon
Puyallup School District has identified 906 projects to provide critical safety, security, technology improvements, facility upgrades, and infrastructure replacements districtwide. These projects are essential to meet the evolving needs of our students and staff.
The projects include facility and system upgrades/repairs in the following categories:
- 45% Building Improvements
- Lighting and Electrical
- Roof Repairs and Replacement
- Portable Improvements
- ADA Accessibility Improvements
- Elevator Replacement
- 18% Technology Infrastructure Improvements
- Classroom Technology
- Internet Access
- 16% Site & Traffic Improvements
- Reader Boards
- Paving Improvements and Walking Paths
- Fence and Gates
- Field Renovations
- Traffic Safety
- 10% Safety & Security Improvements
- Fire and Life Safety
- Access Controls and Alarms
- Districtwide Lock Upgrades
- Intercoms and Notifications
- 11% Outdoor Improvements
- Junior High All Weather Tracks
- Playgrounds and Fields
What is at Stake?
Without additional funding, PSD buildings will continue to deteriorate. The Puyallup High School (PHS) Library Science Building has already closed to prevent safety risks to students and staff. Longer lead times for system replacements, potentially leading to extreme temperature fluctuations in classrooms, an increase in our project backlog, and rising costs, will need to be considered. Beginning in 2026, PSD could also face state fines for failing to meet Clean Buildings Act requirements due to a lack of funding for upgrades required for compliance. These fines would be paid from PSD's general fund, potentially impacting student and classroom support and programs.
Bonds and Levies
To provide some history and context, Puyallup has not passed a capital bond or capital levy since 2015. Currently, PSD supports 60 buildings with an estimated value of $1.741 billion. To keep these facilities in top shape, we have averaged around $150 million in lifecycle renewals for construction and system maintenance every six years.
This upcoming vote marks our district's third attempt to present a proposition for voters to consider funding this growing list of critical projects. In February 2022, the levy received a 48.5% "yes" vote; in November 2022, the election proposition received a 49.7% "yes" vote. In Washington state, a Proposition, such as our Capital Levy, requires a 50% plus one for approval.
On Tuesday, February 13, 2024, Puyallup voters will decide on a $175 million, 6-year levy to fund critical school systems. Passage of this levy would return us to a total tax rate closer to our historical average and in line with our neighboring districts.
The proposed six-year levy would authorize the collection of taxes to provide:
- $25,700,000 in 2025
- $27,000,000 in 2026
- $28,400,000 in 2027
- $29,700,000 in 2028
- $31,400,000 in 2029
- $32,800,000 in 2030
The tax levy rate required to produce these levy amounts is estimated at $0.87 per $1,000 assessed value. Exemptions from taxes may be available; call Pierce County Assessor at 253.798.2169 or visit Property Tax Exemptions & Deferrals | Pierce County, WA - Official Website (piercecountywa.gov)
Capital funds are vital to care for our district assets and ensure all students have high-quality learning environments.
For more information on the proposed Capital Levy, visit our website at http://www.puyallupsd.org/levy
Learn more about our Capital Budget at https://bit.ly/3KGR4Nb