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Tacoma’s $650M annual bond measure to fix 11 city schools goes before voters

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(The Center Square) – Tacoma voters will decide if homeowners will foot an annual bond measure with revenue to go toward major renovations of Tacoma Public Schools buildings.

Tacoma Public Schools’ Proposition 1 would generate a total of $650 million in general obligation bonds over a maximum of 25 years to help pay for health, safety and security upgrades. The ballot measure is being voted on Tuesday.

According to the school district, the average Tacoma homeowner would pay an additional $7.54 per month, or $90 a year, if the ballot measure is approved by voters.

The current total tax rate for 2024 including the bond repayment is approximately $4.12 per month.

Tacoma taxpayers would pay a total of $140 per year with the two bonds combined, based on the 2024 total tax rate.

The city issues bonds with the last bond series being sold in 2020. The district’s current outstanding bonds will have to be fully repaid by Dec. 1, 2045. The Tacoma School District area’s property owners still have over $1 billion in existing bond payments to make from now through 2045.

The new bond proposal would add another $1 billion in taxes to cover the $650 million in the new bond’s principal plus the district’s estimated new bond’s $468 million in interest and fees.

Jeff Heckathorn, head of the School Data Project website that analyzes school funding data, calculates that the total addition for the proposed bond would be $1.1 billion, with the bond schedule set to run through 2050.

“In my opinion, the Tacoma School District needs to stop its addiction to expensive bonds,” Heckathorn said to The Center Square in an email. “It needs to move towards interest free, six-year, capital levies – as some other school districts are already doing.”

The Neighborhood School Improvements and Safety Upgrades bond measure would replace or renovate 11 schools within the district. Revenue would also go toward basic improvements across the school district along with health, safety and security upgrades.

In a statement for the ballot measure, Willie Stewart, Andrea Reay, and Victoria of Woodards of Tacoma Citizens for Schools said that Proposition 1 is about helping every child succeed in Tacoma.

“Proposition 1 makes basic improvements in nearly every neighborhood school, helping them last longer and saving money in the long run,” the advocates said in Tacoma Public Schools’ fact sheet.

If voters approve the bond measure, the district said schools that are the most in need would likely be replaced first and opened on a schedule of one per year.

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