It appears the bond measure for Tacoma Public Schools will be approved by voters. Proposition 1 would generate $500 million to pay for 14 new or remodeled schools and smaller projects at numerous schools throughout the district.
It registered 69.6 percent approval in the first count of ballots by election officials. As of Tacoma Weekly presstime (Feb. 13) it had 24,013 yes votes to 10,473 no votes. It needed 60 percent approval to pass. It is slightly short of the total number of votes for validation, but is likely to surpass the minimum needed as more ballots are counted.
Willie Stewart, who served on Tacoma School Board from 1999-2005, was one of three co-chairs for the campaign supporting Proposition 1. He attributes the success to three factors. The first was the overall strength of the campaign. He noted the efforts of Eric Wilson, a consultant brought in to lead the campaign.
Stewart said phone calls were made to voters on 10 nights, with between 40 and 50 volunteers at the phone bank each evening. “Social media also made a contribution,” he observed.
The second is that parents and other residents recognized the need for the improvements. He mentioned the newest high school, Science and Math Institute. It is housed in portable buildings at Point Defiance Park. The bond would fund construction of a campus of permanent buildings. “When people think of that situation, they see a need,” he said. “The community as a whole believes in education.”
The third is “the dynamic leadership of our new superintendent,” Carla Santorno. Stewart said she is committed to boosting test scores and graduation rates.
Proposition 1 received endorsements from Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, labor unions and community organizations. “All of those things enabled us to be successful.”
Passage of the bond would result in a seven-year reduction in property taxes. This is because the district will eliminate approximately $70 million in taxes that voters approved in 2010 to pay for new schools and refinance the costs of two projects that were approved at that time – Washington-Hoyt Elementary School and Hunt Middle School – with long-term debt from the bond. District officials estimate the bond would cost the average homeowner $58 per year.
Three schools listed on historic register designations – Washington and McCarver elementary schools and Stewart Middle Schools – would be modernized, with efforts made to preserve their architectural character. Wilson High School would get new wings for classrooms.
Results of the election are not official until certification takes place on Feb. 26.