A Pasco School District bond measure will be on the November 7, 2017 ballot. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the 2017 Bond Proposal.
You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 509-543-6700 to talk with someone or set up an appointment.
Can the District use the new state funding that the legislature approved, the so-called "McCleary Money" to build schools?
No. The legislation passed in July, EHB 2242, does provide additional funding for schools, but lawmakers specifically stipulated that districts can only use that money for teacher salaries and other operational costs. It cannot be used for capital projects, like new schools or buildings. The Board of Directors recently held a study session on the impact of the new legislation on school funding. You can watch that study session HERE.
Will the District really get an $80 Million windfall from the state?
No. While the state's funding for K-12 education will gradually increase over the next three years, the state is requiring that districts cap their local levy property tax rate at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, starting in 2019. The increase in state funding is designed to offset this decrease in funding from local levies.
What will the new "McCleary Money" and the proposed bond mean for my taxes?
The chart below shows the district's current combined levy and bond tax rate for 2017. It also shows the increase that taxpayers will see to the state levy rate in 2018 and 2019, as well as the decrease to the local levy rate, starting in 2019.
As you can see from the chart, the combined tax rate for all property owners is currently $8.61 per $1,000 of assessed value. In 2018, the combined tax rate will go up to $10.01 per $1,000 of assessed value for all property owners. However, in 2019 the combined tax rate for all property owners will drop to $7.24. That rate includes the $0.59 that would be added to the current bond rate for the November 2017 bond proposal.
I've heard that if this bond passes, 6th graders will be moved back to the middle schools. Is that true?
This bond proposal was recommended after careful discussion and deliberation by the Community Builders group. The group's recommendation of two elementary schools, a 4th middle school and a new Stevens Middle School was based on the incorporation of 6th grade at the middle schools to address growing elementary capacity needs.
Final determination will be made by the Board of Directors at a later date, and will depend on a number of factors. Those factors include actual enrollment numbers, updated enrollment projections, community input, district recommendations for programs, and a completed long range facilities master plan.
Will middle school boundaries change? If so, when will it happen?
The timeline for boundary changes has not been determined. When new schools add permanent brick and mortar capacity (i.e. more classroom capacity), it will be necessary to make boundary adjustments to alleviate overcrowded schools. The district is developing a process to look at boundaries that will involve community members in making the recommendations to the board. This process will not begin until sometime after the November election.
Didn’t Stevens already get refurbished with 2013 bond funds?
Improvements to the Stevens site from 2013 bond funds were scheduled to occur in three phases.
Phase One: A new parking lot was added at 22nd Avenue across from the school. The approximate cost was $277,205.
Phase Two: Crews removed a section of 24th Avenue between Marie Street and Octave Street, to connect athletic fields to the main campus. The approximate cost was $944,986.
Phase Three: The district had planned to improve the athletic fields, including the addition of a track and baseball/softball fields with approximately $1.3 million from the 2013 bond.
Phases One and Two were completed in 2016. These were expansions of the site only and will not be lost or demolished with a new school. A new Stevens Middle School, with additional student capacity, will be built on the same site. Students will remain in the old facility until the new one is completed.
Will the district have to relocate Stevens students while a new school is built?
No. Students will stay in the existing building while the new school is built on the same site.
Tell me more about the details of the Stevens Middle School Replacement project. Will there be a performing arts space? Why does the drawing only show one gym? Where are the soccer fields?
The district and the architects are in the very early, preliminary stages of planning the site and the design of the school. Most of this work will occur after the November election. Any information you might see right now, such as conceptual drawings, a site layout, the types of fields and facilities, etc., is conceptual, meaning it is not final and is only meant to give an idea of what is possible.
The design process will include previous direction and input from the board and an educational specifications process which involves teachers, administrators, and other staff.
What is included in the Safety and Security Improvements?
The November bond will allow the District to make school safety and security improvements at Angelou, Captain Gray STEM, Chess, Emerson, Frost, Livingston, Longfellow, Markham, McGee, Robinson, Twain and Whittier elementary schools, as well as Ochoa and McLoughlin middle schools, and Chiawana High School. The bond will also pay for roof replacements at Captain Gray STEM Elementary and Markham Elementary.
Why are Improvements Needed for the Transportation Department?
The district currently services 162 school buses in just three single-bus mechanic bays. Pasco’s ratio is 47 buses to 1 bay, compared to 25 to 1 in Kennewick and 20 to 1 in Richland.
The transportation office and driver facilities are housed in two portable buildings. One of those buildings is more than 30 years old (relocated from the district’s old administration center). They are undersized to adequately support more than 230 transportation staff members.
Why doesn’t the district use Maintenance and Operations Levy funding to pay for transportation facility improvements?
Maintenance and Operations levies cover the cost of maintaining and operating schools and facilities beyond what State funding covers. Levy funds pay for routine maintenance and upkeep, but they do not cover major capital projects like building new schools and facilities.
What is the district doing to ensure the community will get the best "bang for our buck"? What strategies will the district use for cost savings?
Several strategies are used to reduce the cost of new schools and to make sure the new schools are a sound investment. New schools are built using the updated “Pasco design” which has already been built multiple times in the district, saving millions of dollars in architectural and engineering fees as well as construction costs. The schools will also be built to accommodate at least 700 students at the elementary level, and 1,000-1,200 students at the middle school level. Our design standards are to build 50-year buildings, to protect the taxpayers’ investment.
How does the district use the impact fees it receives from developers? Will any of the impact fee money go toward the cost of the bond projects?
By law, the district can only use money from impact fees for costs related to enrollment growth. For example, impact fees can be used to buy land for new schools or to add new classrooms— either portable classrooms or permanent brick and mortar classrooms. On average, the district has received $1.7 million a year since 2012. The district has used the impact fees to purchase property and to purchase additional portable classrooms in the district. In the 2013 bond, impact fees were used to reduce the total cost of the bond, and the same is true with this 2017 bond. The district will apply $2 million in impact fees toward the total cost of the projects in the November bond.
Will the new elementary schools be STEM schools?
Currently there is no specific program designation. Community surveys from last year identified several programs that were a priority to the community, including the STEM programs. We are currently looking at equity of access to those programs throughout our system, which means decisions about programs will be made once all of the new permanent capacity is added.
I heard that the district owns 76 acres of land near Broadmoor Blvd./Road 100. What will that land be used for?
The property is intended to be used to meet the need for future schools as the district's population growns. The parcel is large enough to accommodate a future high school.
What is the district doing to prepare for the future? It feels like PSD is always playing catch-up.
The District’s Community Builders Group, which began meeting in March 2017, will continue its work later this fall on the long range facilities master plan. The purpose of the long-range master plan is to provide a 15 to 20-year roadmap for facilities planning.
MGT of America, the District’s facilities planning consultant, has also been engaged to support the work of the Community Builders Group through data analysis of current school facilities and proposing recommendations that the group may consider as they develop and plan for the District’s future facility needs. Community input meetings have also taken place and will continue during the current school year. The goal is to have a plan for the next 15 to 20 years. This plan will address future facilities needs with clear direction for the District.
What is a bond?
Bond money can only be used for building, renovations and capital improvements. Bonds are a lot like the mortgage on a home. This is different than the levy passed by Pasco voters in 2016. Levies pay for teaching and learning costs not covered by the State. The easiest way to remember is bonds are for building and levies are for learning.
Why a bond now?
Our schools are overcrowded and our students need space to learn. As Pasco neighborhoods continue to grow, so does enrollment at our schools. In 2000, Pasco had 8,000 students. Today, we have more than 18,000. That's an average of nearly 600 students a year - enough students to open a new school every single year for the past 15 years.
Our current enrollment for K-8 students is nearly 2,300 students over the District's current capacity. Enrollment projections show the District's projected enrollment for K-8 students in 2026 will be more than 4,400 students over our current capacity (Data from MGT of America Facility Master Plan Update to Board of Directors - May 2017). We need to build schools to relieve crowding issues and accommodate future growth.
What does the bond pay for?
The November 2017 Bond Proposal includes several projects that will alleviate crowding at elementary and middle schools and improve safety throughout the district.
Elementary #16 - Pasco will add a 16th elementary school located on Road 84, just north of Chiawana High School. This new school will help ease overcrowding at some of Pasco’s most overenrolled schools. This 72,000 square foot school is scheduled to open in August 2019.
Elementary #17 - Another elementary school, Elementary number 17, is scheduled to open the following year in August 2020. This will also be a 72,000-square foot facility. This school will be located on Burns Road, between Road 90 and Broadmoor Boulevard.
Stevens Middle School - Built in 1961, Stevens Middle School is one of Pasco’s oldest schools. The bond will replace the aging middle school with a new Stevens Middle School located on the same campus with more room for students. Building on the same site will eliminate the need to relocate students during construction. The new school will be 92,000 square feet and is scheduled to open in January 2021.
Middle School #4 - Pasco will add a fourth middle school to help ease overcrowding. This will be a 115,000 square-foot facility. It is scheduled to open in August 2021. This school will be located on Burns Road, between Road 90 and Broadmoor Boulevard.
Safety and Security - The November bond will allow the District to make school safety and security improvements at Angelou, Captain Gray STEM, Chess, Emerson, Frost, Livingston, Longfellow, Markham, McGee, Robinson, Twain and Whittier elementary schools, as well as Ochoa and McLoughlin middle schools, and Chiawana High School. The bond will also pay for roof replacements at Captain Gray STEM Elementary and Markham Elementary.
Transportation Services - The November 2017 bond proposal also includes $3 million to add two new school bus maintenance bays at the transportation facility and to make renovations at the transportation office and drivers' facility.
How much will the bond cost?
What does that mean for Pasco homeowners?
The estimated tax rate is .59 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That means that if your home is valued at $100,000 the estimated rate would be $59 per year in property taxes or $4.92 a month.
If your home is valued at $200,000 the estimated rate would be $118 per year in property taxes or $9.84 a month.
Didn’t the district just pass a school bond?
Not in the last four years. Here’s a quick history of bond elections in Pasco for the past 11 years:
February 2006: Pasco voters approved an $82.2 million bond. Major projects included building Chiawana High School, renovations at Pasco High School, improvements at Edgar Brown Stadium, site purchase and design for middle school #4 (see: February 2011)
February 2011: Pasco voters did not approve a bond that contained three major projects: construction of middle school #4, an elementary school, and a K-3 early learning center which was to be located in West Pasco.
February 2013: Pasco voters approved a bond for $46.8 million. Major projects included construction of Franklin STEM, McClintock STEM and Curie STEM elementary schools. For an update on the 2013 bond projects click here.
February 2017: Pasco voters did not approve a bond that contained three major projects: construction of Elementary Schools #16 and #17, and replacement of Stevens Middle Schoool.
Projects approved and completed (or near completion) totaled $105.8 million. Since the February 2006 bond Pasco schools have added more than 4,800 students and enrollment has more than doubled since 2000.
I’ve heard that bond requests often get rejected across the state because people believe the bond funds go into a “black hole” and aren’t used for the projects as intended. Could that happen here?
Legally the district can only spend bond dollars on the projects identified in the board’s bond resolution. If the board wishes to make any changes or spend the bond money differently, there has to be an advertised public hearing. Information regarding the completion of the 2013 bond projects can be found HERE.
What will Administration get if the bond passes?
New school and classroom construction makes up most of the bond at $97.5 million dollars. An additional $1.7 million is directly related to school buildings (safety and security, roof replacements). The remaining $5,300,000, or 3%, of the bond is allocated to improving transportation facilities and land acquisition for future school sites. The transportation facilities are outdated and inadequate to serve a district of more than 18,000 students where more than half of those students are bus riders.
Will the PSD bond increase our school debt and my taxes by 50%?
The rate needed to support the principal and interest on the bond is $.59 per $1,000 of assessed value. This would be added to the current rate of $2.25.
Adding the proposed 2017 bond to existing debt would increase the district’s total outstanding principal by approximately 73%, based on 2016-2017 data. This will not, however, increase individual taxes by nearly 50%.
How does the district qualify for “state match” money?
“State match” refers to the state’s School Construction Assistance Program. The program provides funds to qualifying districts to build school facilities. Districts with low tax bases, such as Pasco, can qualify for state funds based on the state’s funding formula.
For new school construction, one factor used in the funding formula is the number of “unhoused students” in the district. The state calculates unhoused students based on a district’s existing space and a state formula for square footage per student. Based on October 1, 2016 enrollment, the projected number of unhoused students in Pasco by the 2020-2021 school year, according to the State’s formula, will be:
* Includes general education students only
** Projected grade 7-8 will be 51 students “over housed” by 2021
The current funding formula for new school construction will allow the district to qualify for state match based on its low assessed property values and total needed square footage (the elementary and high school level), minus the excess square footage (middle level).
The state uses a different funding formula for modernization or replacement school (called “new-in-lieu”) construction. The formula looks at the age and condition of the school being replaced. This allows the district to also qualify for more state match funds to replace Stevens Middle School.
In deciding which projects to include on the November 7, 2017 bond, the Board of Directors considered which projects would qualify for the most state match. Here are the estimated costs and projected state match for the 2017 bond projects:
Total Est. Cost
Total Est. State Match
Total Est. Local Cost
Middle School #4
Stevens Middle School
For these state matched projects, local dollars would fund approximately 69% of the total cost and the state would fund approximately 31% of the total cost. Click here for more information about the School Construction Assistance Program.
What are “unhoused students”?
“Unhoused students” is a term used by the state when it calculates the amount of school construction assistance (or “state match”) for a qualifying district. The term refers to the number of students that won’t be served in a brick and mortar school building, according to the state’s calculation. The state calculation allows for a certain amount of brick and mortar square footage per student. The formula takes building’s total square footage and divides it by the square foot allowance per student. The actual school enrollment is then subtracted from that number, and the difference is “unhoused students”. The number of “unhoused students” in this calculation are one factor that determines how much state match the district could receive.
Why are tax rates higher in Pasco?
Pasco’s higher tax rate is due to our relatively low property tax base. For 2016, the district ranked 275th of 295 district in terms of assessed property value per student.
I heard the District is hoarding almost $65 million, or 27% of its annual budget, in a “rainy-day” fund. Is this true?
No. Five percent of the General Fund is put into reserve each year. At the end of 2015-2016 that fund was about $9.7 million. Maintaining this amount is in the best interest of Pasco taxpayers because it helps secure favorable bond credit ratings. Pasco is in line with other districts across the state in keeping this “rainy-day” benchmark.
I read that the amount Pasco homeowners pay towards school debt will “skyrocket.” Is this true?
The current tax rate for bond debt repayment is $2.25 for every $1,000 of assessed value, or $225 per year for a $100,000 home. The 2017 bond would add an estimated 59 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For a $200,000 home it would be an estimated additional $118 per year or $9.84 per month.
Why are the rates “estimated”?
In an election, voters are asked to approve or reject a total bond amount. The tax rate to pay for the bond is based on assessed property values. If the assessed property values change, then the tax rate changes. The district has been conservative in calculating the estimated tax rate on the bond and levy. Historically the actual tax rate has been lower than the advertised rate.
Why has the estimated tax rate changed from what was discussed with the board during bond planning sessions?
The estimated tax rate for the bond is based on the estimated property values in Pasco (also called “assessed valuation”). Due to growth in the community, the estimated assessed valuation increased. For that reason, the estimated tax rate for the bond decreased.
What is assessed value?
The assessed value is the dollar value assigned to a property for purposes of measuring applicable taxes. Assessed valuation is used to determine the value of a residence for tax purposes and takes comparable home sales and inspections into consideration. Because much of the assessed property in Pasco is residential, Pasco has a lower assessed value than neighboring communities. Assessed property value is determined by the county assessor’s office.
If there are more homes, doesn’t the district get more money?
No. The district can only collect the amount of money approved by the voters in both levy and bond elections. If voters approve the $99.5 million bond, the district will only collect enough money to make the principal and interest payments on that bond. When new homeowners move to Pasco, that just means there are more people to help pay the amount approved by voters. For example, if you buy a $10 pie alone, then your cost is $10. But if you and four friends buy that pie together, then each of you would only pay $2.
Can the district tell me if my taxes will go up or down?
Property taxes depend on many factors that are outside of the district's control. For example, assessed property values of homes are determined by the Franklin County Assessor’s Office.
With a bond, the community is asked to approve the total amount (i.e. $99.5 million). The election gives the county the authority to collect the total and divide it among the whole community. If the community grows, there are more people and businesses to share the ‘pie’ and the tax rate for the total goes down. If the community shrinks, the opposite happens. So the estimated rate of $.59 per $1,000 of assessed value is just that - an estimate. Historically the rates have been lower than the advertised rate for Pasco taxpayers because the district uses conservative estimates.
Wasn’t there a school election last year?
There was a Maintenance and Operations Levy election in 2016. Levies cover the cost of running the district beyond what is covered by the State. The levy is not debt and it must be renewed every two years. Just remember: “Levies are for Learning and Bonds are for Building.”
What does it take to pass the bond?
Bond elections require a super majority of more than 60% approval to pass, unlike levies which only require a simple majority.
What about people on a fixed income?
Senior citizens and disabled persons may be eligible for tax exemptions and deferrals. Contact the Franklin County Assessor at 509-545-3506 for more information.
What if I still have questions?
You can send questions to email@example.com or call 509-543-6700 to talk with someone or set up an appointment.