SEATTLE - School districts across Washington are asking voters to support major projects. Dozens of bond requests and levies are on the ballot for the special election on Feb. 8.
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is one of several districts in western Washington with proposals on the ballot. SPS has an Operations Levy and a Buildings, Technology and Academics/Athletics V Capital Levy (BTA V) that are expiring in 2022. If voters approve both, the existing levies would be replaced. Fred Podesta, the district’s assistant superintendent of operations said the state provides a lot of funding for schools, but there are gaps that affect the learning environment for students and staff.
"Bridge the gap, so we can have what we really need to run schools. I can’t imagine at Seattle Public Schools what operations would look like without the support of local voters and these levies," said Podesta.
The district has about a dozen buildings that are more than 100 years old and need renovations. Memorial Stadium in the heart of the city isn’t quite as old, but officials said the venue is on its last days. The BTA V would fund necessary improvements at those buildings and keep the stadium open.
"Anybody that lived here for any amount of time has memories there. But the building was built in the late ‘40s. It’s more than 70 years old and it’s just time to reinvest. It’s a lot of concrete that is starting to deteriorate. It’s not the safest place to be during a seismic event anymore," said Podesta.
If approved, BTA V would raise $783 millions over six years. Nearly $67 million of those dollars would pay for stadium renovations long overdue.
"We need a modern facility that has working plumbing that has reasonable amenities like locker rooms four our student athletes. We need a new field," said Podesta.
Those upgrades, plus new stands and lighting are the only things Podesta said are needed for the district’s use of the stadium. He also said the city now wants to build a partnership—to make the venue even better for more events and gatherings open to the public.
"Our partnership with Seattle is contingent on the levy passing. If this levy were not approved by the voters, I think we would still be kind of patching things together and then figure out what the long term is because we can’t really keep the stadium open in its current fashion indefinitely without a big reinvestment," said Podesta.
Investing in the future is what school districts across the state hope voters say yes to. Tacoma Public Schools is proposing two levies—one that would allow kids of all demographics to have access to updated technology.
"With the advent of COVID, all of our students now have a device of their own. So, they have a laptop that they can use at school and at home. And the same is true for our staff. With this levy, that would allow them to continue to have updated devices," said Nora Doyle, a spokesperson for Tacoma Public Schools.
Four districts in Thurston County have proposals on the ballot. Olympia School District is requesting approval for its Technology and Capital Projects Replacement levy.
Trying to navigate different websites learning about all the proposals in respective communities can be a chore. FOX13 News created a list of links with information about the levies to help voters make their search a little easier.
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