More than a dozen new or remodeled schools could be on the drawing boards for Tacoma kids, if voters approve a $500 million bond measure Feb. 12.
The Tacoma School Board, which had been discussing the bond proposal for several weeks, made it official Thursday night. After tweaking ballot language, they agreed to send the request for funding to voters.
If they approve, the school district will fund 14 major projects and a string of smaller improvements at schools across Tacoma.
Among the planned improvements:
• Modernization of Wilson High School, originally built in 1958. The first phase of a modernization project was completed in 2007, but older parts of the campus are in need of updates, school officials and parents say.
• A permanent home for the Science and Math Institute (SAMI). The small high school has been housed in temporary portable classrooms at Point Defiance Park since it opened in 2009.
• New buildings to replace two West End schools the district closed in recent years: Wainwright Elementary and Hunt Middle School.
• Modernization of two historic schools: McCarver Elementary in the Hilltop neighborhood and Stewart Middle School on Pacific Avenue.
District officials say historically low interest rates, combined with the possibility of refinancing existing school district debt, could save taxpayers money. Property owners currently pay a total tax rate of just over $7 per $1,000 of assessed property value to the Tacoma School District. That includes an operations levy, a short-term capital levy and existing bond debt.
If the February bond measure passes, the tax rate would rise to just over $7.80 per $1,000 through 2020, school officials say. If it fails, taxes are projected to rise to $8.63 per $1,000 by 2016.
Approval of the bond would give the school district the ability to fold short-term debt from a capital levy approved in 2010 into longer-term bond financing.
To pass, the February bond proposal needs to win approval from a supermajority of 60 percent of voters.