Voters lean yes for $160 million Bellingham School District bond


BELLINGHAM - A $160 million bond for Bellingham School District was headed toward passing Tuesday night, Nov. 5, according to a preliminary ballot count.

For the bond to pass, the district needs at least 40 percent of the voter turnout from last November's election, or at least 21,902 people, and 60 percent of those voters need to approve the bond.

As of Tuesday night, the measure only had 20,115 votes, but many ballots are still to be counted.

As of 8:30 p.m., about 64 percent of the votes were in favor of the measure, according to the Whatcom County Auditor's Office. Election results will be certified Nov. 26.

District Superintendent Greg Baker said he was hopeful the bond would pass based on the preliminary numbers and Bellingham's voting history.

"This is a community that understands how valuable this is," Baker said. "We're grateful to the community for supporting our schools."

The 20-year bond would pay for construction projects throughout the district over the next 10 years, including a rebuild of Sehome High School, improvements to elementary schools, construction of a central kitchen, and renovation of the district office.

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.

The current bond tax rate is 90 cents per $1,000 assessed value. If the new bond passes, the rate would increase in 2014 to $1.39 per $1,000, then decrease over the next five years, settling at $1.16 in 2019.

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

-- Rebuild Sehome High School for an estimated $73 million. The 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. The school could open as early as 2017.

-- Renovate Lowell Elementary School with a 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 useable 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.

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-756-2803 or

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