Can the Bethel Bond find success in 2019?

Members of the Seattle media joined last night’s School Board Study Session as discussion began for what to do in the wake of the failed November bond.

Board members talked about the pros and cons of a Capital Levy, which only requires a simple majority to pass, versus running another Construction Bond, which requires a 60% supermajority.

They also discussed rerunning the bond as it is, or making some small changes to it. Decisions will be made at the December 11 School Board meeting.

Momentum

With the bond’s failure only 307 votes away from the 60% requirement, the thought of carrying that momentum forward into February was a key topic of conversation.

Bethel is not the only district having a hard time overcoming the state’s 60% hurdle. The Auburn School District was mentioned, as they had finally passed a bond after five tries — with three of the failed bonds receiving more than 59% of the vote.

The Board also discussed voter fatigue, the timeline of projects, and legislative issues, such as getting rid of the 60% supermajority.

Sticker shock

The dollar amount of the bond was also a point of discussion.

“Anything over a million dollars is going to rattle you if you don’t do this on a regular basis,” said Board Member Marcus Young.

As the district has to pay prevailing wages and must toe the line when it comes to state regulations regarding school construction, the costs of school construction can definitely create some “sticker shock” in the community.

However, each time the bond fails, the Board must consider inflation and rising costs for building. As was mentioned during the meeting, “construction costs don’t go down, they go up.”

Parents

At the meeting, the President of the Bethel Citizens Committee for School Support, Sandy Williamson, said that the number of parents that voted in the election rose from 17% in February to 35% in November. But, he noted, it still wasn’t enough to reach the required 60%.

Williamson said elections in Bethel are always close. In 2006, the bond passed by 196 votes. The 2001 bond won by less than 100 votes.

“If the required percentage was 61% we would never pass a bond, ever.” he said.

Next steps

If the Board authorizes an election in February, they will do so at the next School Board meeting on December 11. It took nine tries to pass the 2001 bond. A February bond would be the fifth attempt since 2016.