Bellingham School District to put $160 million bond on November ballot



Jeff Allen, lead custodian at Sehome High School, stands in the tunnel system beneath the school Tuesday, July 2, 2013, in Bellingham. The tunnels served as a bomb shelter when the school first opened in 1966 and now are used for the heating and ventilation systems. Much of the schools infrastructure is many decades old, Allen said. "It's not a great building," Allen said, "but it's a great school."


BELLINGHAM - Residents of Bellingham School District will have a chance to vote on a $160 million bond, after the school board approved the bond for the Nov. 5 ballot.

The 20-year bond would pay for a variety of construction projects throughout the district over the next 10 years, including school rebuilds and remodels. The board approved the bond resolution unanimously, with Steve Smith absent, at its meeting Thursday, June 27.

For the bond to pass, the district needs to have at least 40 percent of the voter turnout from last November's election, and 60 percent of those voters need to approve the bond.

If it passes, the owners of a home assessed at $300,000 would pay an extra $144 a year on their property taxes in 2014 compared to 2013. That amount would decrease until 2019, when they would pay an extra $78 compared to the 2013 rate.

The district's most recent bond was approved in 2006, and is still being paid off. That $67 million bond included construction of new schools, as well as school improvements and maintenance. Voters also approved a maintenance and operations levy and a technology levy in 2012.

If the new bond passes, that would bring overall property taxes for Bellingham schools to $4.61 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Here's a list of the projects the proposed bond would pay for:

- Rebuild Sehome High School for an estimated $73 million. The new high school would be built on another part of the property so the current school could remain open during construction. The new school could open as early as fall 2018.

- Rebuild Happy Valley Elementary School for an estimated $19 million. The school could open as early as 2016.

- Build a new Options/Innovations High School for an estimated $21 million to replace the current seven-portable school. A new Options could open as early as 2017.

- Renovate Lowell Elementary School with new gym, cafeteria and elevator for an estimated $6 million.

- Renovate Parkview Elementary School to create a separate gym and cafeteria for an estimated $4 million.

- Renovate the district office on Dupont Street for an estimated $17 million.

- Update the district's bus barn to address issues with work space, poor physical condition and energy inefficiency for an estimated $2 million.

- Build a central kitchen on Sehome's campus to serve students at all schools for an estimated $4 million.

- Replace grass football fields with synthetic turf at Bellingham and Squalicum high schools for an estimated $5 million to make them more usable in wet weather. Sehome's fields are included in the school's construction project.

- Make improvements such as new roofs, windows, flooring, paint and energy-efficiency upgrades over the next several years at some elementary, middle and high schools for an estimated $5 million.

- Improve school safety with video, emergency radio communications and security for an estimated $2 million.

- Begin planning for possible outdoor learning or facility projects at the district's conservation site at Lake Whatcom for an estimated $2 million.

The Happy Valley rebuild and Lowell remodel are high on the list of priorities, according to district officials. Both schools will receive additional students in fall 2014 after Larrabee Elementary School is closed.

Community involvement on the new Happy Valley school could begin as early as spring 2014.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or Read her School Days blog at or follow her on Twitter at @bhamschools.

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