Voters have not approved a bond for Yelm Community Schools since 2003. Since that time our area has seen exponential growth and our facilities are no longer keeping up with the demand. Bonds are strictly for construction, they do not fund teachers or administrative salaries. Bonds require a 60 percent supermajority to pass and our community has not reached the required benchmark to replace and make improvements to failing infrastructure. For a bond to pass in our district, both Pierce and Thurston Counties must approve it by 60 percent.
Both Yelm Middle School and Southworth qualify for $23.4 million in state funding assistance. The only way Yelm Community Schools can tap into this financial aid is If voters in both Thurston & Pierce counties pass the bond with a 60 percent supermajority.
Bonds and levies are two entirely different revenue streams and are allocated entirely different. Bonds fund school construction, not teacher and administrative salaries. Levies fund additional programs that go beyond the definition of basic education and minimum instructional hours which includes professional learning for staff, extracurricular sports and after school student programs, extended school days, early learning activities, and additional salary costs attributable to enrichment activities.
Members of the Community and the School Board came together in multiple public meetings to triage the critical needs of our district. Together, they concluded that every school in the district is in need of safety improvements while Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary are in dire need of replacement which will eliminate the need for 40 portables. All schools need security cameras, key fob entry and front door security along with site specific improvements, custom to each school. Prairie and Fort Stevens are in need of doors on their classrooms, Lackamas needs covered walkways, McKenna needs security fencing and Yelm High School needs exterior lighting.
For the last several years, Yelm Community Schools have asked our community to approve construction bond proposals but have been turned down every time since 2003. They ran a similar bond last year with a cost of $76 million. This bond is $22 million higher than it was last year for a similar proposal due to rising construction costs. Construction costs will continue to rise and if we keep kicking the can down the road, the infrastructure that we need will be out of our communities budget.
Bonds are the only source of funding in our state dedicated to build schools. “Lottery money for schools” is a myth. *In 2010, the legislature changed the law so that much of the money that was originally intended to go towards K-12 schools was instead diverted towards college scholarships and preschool programs. The misconception of “lottery money for schools” has greatly hindered our school district’s ability to pass a bond since voters believe that state education funding “is already taken care of.”
(*Tacoma News Tribune, September 19, 2015, “Why Washington’s Lottery can’t solve school funding problems”)
Yes. The legislature did provide additional funding for teachers salaries, statewide for K-12. Funding for each school district is being negotiated on a local level. The McCleary decision, a Washington state Supreme Court ruling to address inadequate public education funding does not provide funds for school construction. Approval of bond measures is the primary source of funding for school infrastructure.
No. It sounds too good to be true but it’s a fact, property tax rates for schools will not increase if the community passes the bond. Yelm Community Schools (YCS) partnered with DA Davidson, a leading financial company to answer that question. Community members can expect to pay $1.84 per $1,000 of assessed value of your home for the bond when it takes effect in 2020. The total current tax rate for Yelm Community Schools is $8.04 per thousand but the McCleary Decision will cut our levy rate by more than 50 percent, bringing the total tax rate to $6.97 per $1,000 in 2020 with approval of the bond.
The average home within Yelm Community Schools boundaries is about $270,000. According to the tax calculator, created by DA Davidson for Yelm Community Schools, a homeowner currently pays $5.95 per day for the schools portion of property tax. If the bond is passed, the same property owner would pay $4.02 per day for the total school’s portion of property tax. If you would like to see how this bond would impact your property tax, please use the tax calculator tax calculator.
The last bond for Yelm Community Schools passed in 2003. That funding went towards building Ridgeline Middle School, modernizing both Lackamas and McKenna elementary schools, completing the Yelm Extension School and expanding Yelm High School. All projects were done on-time and under cost. This year, the school district did its due diligence by forming a committee comprised of citizens from different employment backgrounds, to study all school facilities and research funding options. The committee was especially sensitive to costs. In addition, the district conducted an online community survey and held several public events in the fall of 2018. Their findings concluded that the overwhelming community concern –aside from the price tag--is school safety, one of the components of this initiative.