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2019 Capital Bond FAQ

*The Peninsula School District passed a Capital Bond on February 12, 2019. Here is archived information from the bond information page.

This bond addresses elementary overcrowding. Aren’t there other schools in the district that need significant improvements?

Yes, it’s true that over $750 million in facility improvements across the district were identified by previous facility planning committees. However, the goal of the current bond is to address our most urgent need – the severe overcrowding in our elementary schools. If we tried to address all the school district needs at once it would create an unachievable tax burden on the community. Upon Superintendent Jarvis’s arrival, he reviewed the work done by previous facility planning committees as well as the demographic data and enrollment growth trends. Through this assessment, it became very clear that the elementary overcrowding was dire and needed immediate attention.

In the future, the secondary schools will need attention in two key areas: Capacity and condition. A temporary capacity solution, as our large elementary student population moves up and into middle school, is to repurpose the portables currently on the elementary campuses in our secondary schools. Urgent issues regarding the condition of our secondary schools will be prioritized and addressed through limited funding provided by the current bond.

However, these provisional remedies for our secondary schools only provide short-term solutions. More permanent remedies along with our ongoing commitment to keeping students and staff safe, warm, and dry will need to be addressed through future capital funding measures 

Doesn’t the state fully fund public education?

The McCleary decision, which declared it was the mandate of public schools to serve EVERY child according to their needs and provided incentives for addressing class size, was never intended to address capital funding for school construction. As has always been the case, local school districts are still responsible for most of the cost to build new schools and fix aging school buildings.

What is the district’s bond rating?

We have an Aa2 -- which is good. A rating like this impacts the bond investor which means they are willing to take a lower interest rate. As a result, the cost to the taxpayers is less.

Why can’t the developers and new homeowners moving into Gig Harbor, especially Gig Harbor North, pay for a new school?

Even at $3,000 per house, these impact fees do not provide enough capital funds to build new schools. While every new home and apartment complex must pay an “impact fee,” which is set by Pierce County the City of Gig Harbor, these fees only bring in about $1 million per year.

Currently, there is a task force reviewing impact fees for cities and counties and has recommended increasing impact fees considerably. We are actively engaged with this task force.

Where are the new elementary schools going to be built?

The bond will provide immediate funding to rebuild the two oldest elementary schools in the district–Artondale and Evergreen. The two new elementary schools (#9 and #10) will be built to accommodate the current overflow and projected growth of the elementary population.

Elementary School #9 will be located in Gig Harbor North across the street from the YMCA. Elementary School #10 site has not been decided at this time. While the school district owns a site off Bujacich Road this property is outside of the urban growth area. If this site is not considered viable after study and site review the district would move quickly to purchase additional property to house Building #10.

How will you be held responsible for spending our money?

There are many eyes and checkpoints on how bond money is spent including an independent community audit committee that will regularly monitor project expenditures and the status of projects on the Bond Project matrix. In addition, we receive annual audits from the State Auditor, we go through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction process (called the D process) for each project and cannot move forward until we are approved by OSPI at each phase of the process. We will provide quarterly reports of project progress with visual documentation throughout the building process. These reports will be published via our website and publicized through the Compass and our social media posts.

How did you come up with your numbers for project costs and total bond cost?

We consulted experts in engineering, architecture, school construction (AHBL, Greene-Gasaway, Integrus, WSU Engineering), and examined similar recent projects from other districts. Building a school is very similar to building a hospital. The codes and safety provisions are extensive and significant; mandated state regulations must be followed. All of this means the cost per square foot is much more expensive than building a home or a standard commercial building. Be assured, the estimated costs for our schools are in line with other current school construction that is occurring around the state. 

Tax chart

I heard you want to raise my taxes 132%, how is that even possible?

The table below shows that increase in the second row - an increase from 2019 to 2020 from $.31 to $.79 per $1000 assessed value. But if you add levy and bond together, you’ll see that the tax overall burden at the local level goes down from 2018 to 2020.

Tax rate chart

I saw on social media that you only have 18 students per classroom, and the district can solve its overcrowding problem by simply increasing class sizes. Is this true?

The number 18 students per classroom is not accurate – and somewhat misleading. First, our class size on average (as you can see below) is larger than 18. As a school district, we support the idea of keeping class sizes low. But when class size is kept on the lower side the result is an increase in the number of classes needed to accommodate the growing elementary school population. So, while the state encourages us through extra funding to keep class size low, they do not provide funding to create the extra classrooms needed to accommodate these additional classes

The other factor to consider is that our student growth is not coming evenly spread out across the district -- it is focused almost entirely at the schools serving the Urban Growth Area - Discovery (by far the hardest hit by growth), Purdy and Harbor Heights. This creates inequities in class sizes without additional facilities.

Below are the current elementary class sizes in PSD. The mandate of public schools is the need to serve EVERY child according to their needs defined by both federal and state regulations.

Here’s how that classroom average breaks down:

ECEAP (Head Start) preschool: 10 students average
PreK-5 self-contained special education: 9 students average
Kindergarten to Grade 3:  20* students average
Grade 4:  23 students average
Grade 5:  26 students average
Grade 5 Discovery Elementary (our most crowded school):  31^ students average

*Meets the state requirements for us to receive enhanced funding provided by the McCleary legislation allocated for the purpose of reducing primary grade class sizes
^closed - students new to the school are bussed to Artondale

I thought you passed a bond last spring, why are you asking for money again so soon?

While we did receive overwhelming support from the community, we still failed to meet the threshold set by the state for capital bonds. The state requires a 60% super-majority for capital bonds and while we received over 59% positive support, this failed to reach the level needed for approval.