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Bonds and Levies Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Visit the Bellevue School District Capital Bond page for additional information and resources.

How is the $675 million being spent?

In a bond election, voters are asked to approve a maximum amount of debt the district can take on for specified construction projects. The costs include both hard (materials and labor for buildings, stormwater drainage, fields, playgrounds, parking, walkways and landscaping) and soft (architectural fees, permitting fees, utility fees, sales tax, etc.) costs.

In recent years, construction costs have been inflating at an average of 6 percent per year. So that we can complete the projects included without going back to taxpayers, we have included this 6 percent inflation factor in the cost estimates. To provide an example of the cost of building schools, Stevenson Elementary (located on NE 8th Street) cost $59 million and was completed in 2018, Clyde Hill Elementary cost $52.6 million and was completed in 2019, Sammamish High School cost $91 million and was completed in 2017, and Phantom Lake Elementary cost $15.4 million and was completed in 2003.

Here are how the costs breakdown for this bond measure:

School/Projects $ Millions
Newport High School $125
Interlake High School $60
Big Picture School $120
Jing Mei Elementary $70
International School $150
Land $50
Safety & Security $10
Education Service Centers $90
Total $675

We began this construction program in 2002 with the first bond election. We had subsequent elections in 2008 and 2014 bringing us to this point in 2020. We expect these projects to take 6-8 years to complete and have built the 6 percent construction inflation into these estimates. In addition, like all good construction planners/project managers, the district has included some contingency funds in these estimates. Additionally, if these projects cost less than originally estimated, the bonds will not be sold.

Who has oversight for the bond spending?

The Board of Directors for the Bellevue School District is responsible for financial oversight of these projects. To date, the district has rebuilt or remodeled 27 schools. All projects have been completed on time and within budget. The board is required to approve all architectural and general contractor contracts including all change orders.

Does Washington State provide any funding for school construction?

The availability of state funding via the State Construction Assistance Program is based on a school district’s inability to fund construction costs themselves as measured by a district’s assessed value per student. In addition, prior to any state funding being available, the district must pass a bond themselves to fund a portion of the construction costs. Due to high property values in the City of Bellevue, the Bellevue School District has a high assessed value to student ratio. With the limited capital funding available from the state in recent years BSD, has not qualified for state capital funding assistance.

Why does the district need to purchase land? What would it be used for?

The City of Bellevue Planning Department is anticipating an additional 16,000 new housing units in the next 15 years. A significant portion of these residences will be built in the Wilburton Commercial District and the Bel-Red Corridor. Historically, these areas of our community were occupied by commercial or light industrial businesses with very few residents. As a result, the Bellevue School District did not have schools in these areas. As these areas become more residential, we want to be able to provide families with community/neighborhood schools when feasible. Highland Middle School will be the neighborhood middle school. The new Highland building has been built with additional capacity anticipating this growth. Interlake and Sammamish High Schools will be the neighborhood high schools. Sammamish has capacity, and we will be adding capacity to Interlake with this bond. The district needs property for any additional neighborhood elementary schools. In addition, if the district decides to move forward with another choice program, it will need land for that facility as well.

It seems the choice schools like Jing Mei, Puesta del Sol, International School and Big Picture School are popular with parents. Why not build more choice schools instead of expanding the high schools?

We need additional capacity at Interlake and Newport high schools even if we add another choice program. The district is not against adding another choice program but before a facility can be designed and built, we need to know the educational specifications and type of choice program that will be using the facility including size, grade levels, focus, etc. The District needs to work with our community to understand the demand and what will best meet the needs of the community.

How did you decide what to include in the bond package?

The District formed a Growth and Planning Committee in Spring 2018 which included community members, parents, building administrators, teachers and city planning. This group met monthly for 18 months reviewing district programs, current facilities and future facility needs. They analyzed enrollment trends, program directions, current facilities, and anticipated growth to make a recommendation to the Board of Directors. Their recommendations included changing where and how programs are offered, opportunities to spend the Capital and Technology levy currently in place on specific needs, and this bond package proposal. To see what was presented to the board, use this link:$file/Oct%2015%20Board%20Presentation%20v3.pdf

How do bonds work?

In a bond election, voters are asked to approve a maximum amount of debt the district can take on for construction projects. With voter approval, the district will sell bonds incrementally over the next 4-6 years.

At the same time the district is taking on this new debt, we are paying off debt that has been issued over the previous 20 years which allows us to keep tax rates relatively flat even while funding these new buildings.

What will it cost?

The incremental impact to property tax rates is expected to be $0.03 per $1,000 of assessed value. For an $850,000 home, the average home value in Bellevue, the cost would be $25.50 annually or $2.13 a month (Based on estimated districtwide assessed property value).

How long will it last?

Bonds have a maximum maturity of 20 years from the date of the sale.

Can I buy any of the district’s bonds?

The district generally sells $100 million in bonds at once to the lowest bidding financial institution. The bonds are not available for individual investors.

How is new construction paying for schools?

New construction will pay its share when completed. New construction increases the total assessed value for the district. The tax rate to repay the bonds is determined based on total assessed value. As new construction is completed the tax rate will drop for everyone. A portion of the total tax will be paid by new construction.

Is district enrollment still growing?

District-wide enrollment has been flat the last 2 years. However, some schools are growing while others are not. According to the City of Bellevue, the city is expecting 40,000 new jobs and 16,000 new housing units by 2035. While enrollment has recently flattened, we expect to it to start growing again as the new housing units are built.

Why weren’t Interlake High School and Newport High School built with enough capacity when they were done the first time? Shouldn’t the district have anticipated the need for additional capacity?

Interlake High School (completed in 2005) and Newport High School (completed in 2007) were some of the initial projects. When these schools were being designed and constructed, District enrollment had been flat for over 20 years. At the time, the School Board was concerned with over-building.

District enrollment started growing in 2010 with the most significant growth being seen after 2014. This recent growth has significantly impacted both Newport and Interlake High Schools.

I don’t have children that attend any of the schools that will benefit from these bonds, what’s in it for me?

This is the next phase in an ongoing construction program that started 20 years ago. Many of our buildings have already been rebuilt and these efforts were supported by families districtwide and not just those immediately affected.

The individual schools to be either significantly remodeled or rebuilt include Jing Mei Elementary, Big Picture School, International School, Interlake High School and Newport High School. In addition, 19 schools will receive safety upgrades. Over half the districts’ students will attend high school at one of these schools. In addition, even if your students won’t attend any of these specific schools investing in our schools maintains and, in many cases, increases the overall value of our homes.

When was the last bond election and why now?

The last time we asked voters to approve a bond election was 2014. Since then, we have asked voters to renew local tax levies that fund education programs and technology. This bond election is for Phase IV of a construction program that begin in the early 2000’s. Phantom Lake Elementary school was the first rebuilt school which opened in fall 2003. The 2014 bond funds were used to build Bennett Elementary, Enatai Elementary, Wilburton Elementary, Clyde Hill Elementary, Stevenson Elementary, Puesta del Sol Elementary, and Highland Middle School.

Doesn’t the state have capital funds for schools that we can use?

The state does have some capital construction funds for schools. However, the amount is not significant and must be shared across the state. Access to these funds is through a grant process based on demonstrated need.

Are there other funds that you are using to further improve facilities?

Bellevue tax payers also provide the district funds via a Capital and Technology property tax levy. This levy was last renewed by voters in 2018. This money is used for ongoing maintenance of buildings, technology needs, and other capital projects that are not as substantial as the projects to be funded by the bond.

Are there other safety improvement measures being considered by the District?

Our Security and Safety department finished a facility safety survey this past year. Capital and Technology funds are being used to implement recommendations across the district including increasing the use of proxy cards for building entrances and upgrading and installing cameras based on best practices.