Bond FAQs

  • Note: The below proposed $470 million school funding measure was NOT approved by voters during the February 11, 2020, election.

    Below is a complete list of frequently asked questions we've received regarding the February 11, 2020, capital bond proposal. This list and these answers will be updated as questions are asked and information is available. To review frequently asked questions by subject matter:

    If the bond is approved, what is the timeline for project completion and how much does each project cost?
    Cascade View Elementary replacement - Fall 2023 (proposed project cost - $68.6 million)

    Cathcart Elementary replacement - Fall 2023 (proposed project cost - $68.9 million)

    Dutch Hill Elementary replacement - Fall 2023 (proposed project cost - $72 million)

    Seattle Hill Elementary replacement - Fall 2023 (proposed project cost - $69 million)

    Emerson Elementary replacement - Fall 2025 (proposed project cost - $71 million)

    Totem Falls Elementary replacement - Fall 2026 (proposed project cost - $77.3 million)

    Central Primary Center renovation/early learning center - Fall 2026 (proposed project cost - $13.7 million)

    Maintenance/Transportation - Fall 2027 (proposed project cost - $10.55 million)

    District-wide safety and security - Would begin immediately (proposed project cost - $4 million)

    Additional projects (finish dates to be determined)


    • AIM High School/Parkway Campus renovation - Fall 2025 (proposed project cost - $4.85 million)
    • Glacier Peak High School classroom addition - Fall 2025 (proposed project cost - $10.1 million)

    Additional projects by priority (pending funding)

    • Glacier Peak High School food service equipment
    • Upgrade elementary play fields
    • Upgrade secondary softball/baseball fields
    • Veterans Memorial Stadium
    • Replace aging artificial fields

    Why can’t the district just remodel and add to the schools to save taxpayers’ money?

    • The buildings are at the end of their useful life. For example, heating and ventilation systems, windows, doors, flooring, cabinets, roofs, electrical power distribution, fire alarm systems need to be replaced.
    • All of the schools in the bond issue are not to current code compliance. For example, earthquake, energy, storm water and fire are codes that the buildings need to be updated for compliance.
    • All of the concrete-block schools do not readily lend themselves to remodel due to the large number of structural support walls to support the roof.
    • Many of the schools have numerous separate buildings causing issues for additions where they need to be instead locating new rooms where there is room to build.
    • The schools will not support two-story construction without significant structural work creating sprawling one-story schools.
    • The Citizens' Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) analysis showed that remodel of existing buildings would result in larger buildings that would ultimately cost more (construction and on-going operational costs) than the cost of replacement with a new efficient two-story school.

    How will investing in our facilities improve instruction?
    These new facilities will include:

    • Safe and modern classroom spaces that are conducive to collaboration, cognitive engagement, and purposeful instruction
    • Flexible spaces to provide more individualized instruction and support
    • Improved air quality, air circulation and filtering
    • Controlled room comfort (temperature, lighting and acoustics)
    • Better utilization of outdoor light
    • Ergonomic furniture that encourages movement and arrangement options
    • Separate physical education and lunchroom spaces
    • Enhanced safety and security provisions (fewer entries, single building)

    New facilities will replace portables which are not only smaller in size, but may compromise safety, limit teacher collaboration, limit class configurations and limit access to student services.

    New facilities will be designed to enhance longevity, optimize life-cycle and operational costs and promote ease of maintenance. New facilities don’t require frequent repairs that disrupt classroom instruction. Utility costs per square foot are lower.

    Weren't the schools that would be replaced just built?
    Cathcart Elementary, Emerson Elementary and Central Primary Center were built in the late 1940s-1970. Seattle Hill Elementary, Dutch Hill Elementary, Totem Falls Elementary and Cascade View Elementary were built as pod schools (1982-1991) and were constructed for a 20-30 year lifespan. Not only are these schools not energy efficient, but the pod schools have virtually no wall insulation and have primarily residential-style classroom heating systems. Roofs are in need of replacement, and physical education spaces must be shared with lunchroom spaces. The construction of that time period no longer matches the safety conditions of today. Classroom spaces no longer meet current instructional standards. The new schools would be built to last into the 22nd century.

    How old are the schools that are part of the bond proposal?
    The average age of the seven elementary schools in the bond proposal (Cascade View Elementary, Cathcart Elementary, Central Primary Center, Dutch Hill Elementary, Emerson Elementary, Seattle Hill Elementary and Totem Falls Elementary) is about 42 years old.

     Timeline of school and building construction and renovation

    What enhancements to school safety and security are included in the proposal?
    Upgrades to safety and security would be made at all schools throughout the district. Projects include:

    • Digital access control systems
    • New district wide radio system
    • Redesigned vestibules in secondary schools
    • New and upgraded existing camera systems
    • Emergency responder enhancements
    • Improved lockdown capability

    How much money would the proposed February 2020 bond raise? What is the projected cost to the taxpaper?
    If approved by voters on February 11, 2020, the tax rate for the Snohomish School District's $470 million capital bond would be $0.98 per $1,000 of assessed valuation (based on 2019 tax rates). In the Snohomish School District, the average assessed home value is $460,000. For a home assessed at $460,000, the cost would be about $450/year or $38/month. All funding approved by Snohomish voters stays local and is used to support education in the Snohomish School District.

    What is the current amount of voter-approved local school funding? How does this bond proposal impact those numbers?
    Voter-approved local school funding includes 2018 operations levy, 2018 technology levy and 2004 and 2008 bonds. The dollar amounts shown on the below chart represent local Snohomish School District taxation rates per $1,000 of assessed valuation (data/figures available as of November 21, 2019). The 2021 figure includes the $0.98 should the February 2020 bond measure be approved (based on 2019 tax rates).

    Voter-approved local school funding chart

    What is the diffrence between a bond and a levy?
    A bond is a long-term investment that authorizes the district to purchase property for schools, construct new schools, or modernize existing schools. Bonds are sold to investors who are repaid with interest over time from property tax collections (typically 20 years).

    A levy is a local property tax passed by the voters of a school district that generates revenue to fund programs and services that the state does not pay for as part of “basic education.” Because the funding provided by the state does not cover the actual costs to operate a school district, districts often use levy funds to hire additional staff, or for student programming and services that are underfunded or not funded by the state. Some of the many things that levies help to fund may include: extracurricular activities, special education, transportation, food service, operations, grounds and maintenance, preschool, and other activities.

    Learn more about the difference between bonds and levies by clicking here.

    If approved in February 2020 when would the taxes from the 2020 bonds expire?
    If approved, taxes from the 2020 bonds would be collected beginning in 2021 and would expire in 2041.

    How are bonds approved?
    Both bonds and levies require voter approval, but in Washington bonds require a higher majority of voter approval than levies. Bonds require a supermajority to pass (60%).

    How long would it take to construct the proposed schools?
    The proposed construction timeline for each of the facilities is about 20-24 months. The entire process (design, permitting, etc.) may take an additional 12 months. 

    How large would the elementary schools be?
    Each of the proposed elementary schools would be built according to the district's educational specifications (about 600 students).

    Previous construction projects, especially those from the 2008 bond, included important environmentally friendly aspects. What were some of them and will they be included in these proposed projects?
    We were fortunate that in 2008, the positive bid climate enabled the district to boost its capital projects program. Lower construction costs enabled us to make wise investments in our future. We were able to incorporate sustainable systems, such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels and natural lighting and ventilation systems in many of the new and remodeled facilities (Snohomish High School, Valley View Middle School, Centennial Middle School, Riverview Elementary and Machias Elementary). Not only do these capital investments save our district operation dollars and lower the operating costs supported by the general fund, but they have inspired new relationships between our students and the environment. We anticipate installing these systems in future projects.

    The new buildings would be larger in size... doesn't that mean increased utility costs for the district?
    In fact, the opposite is true. Our older schools are incredibly inefficient when it comes to utility costs. Below are two examples from 2018-2019:

    • Little Cedars Elementary is 81,447 square feet as compared to Seattle Hill Elementary at 53,143 square feet. Little Cedars Elementary is about 28,304 square feet larger. Although there is a size difference, the utility costs (gas and electricity) between the two schools were virtually the same - Little Cedars Elementary at $46,931 and Seattle Hill Elementary at $46,795.
    • Machias Elementary is 78,137 square feet, and Dutch Hill Elementary is 44,747 square feet (difference of 33,930). Utility costs are significantly different relative to size. Machias Elementary utiliity costs (gas and electricity) were $39,625 compared to Dutch Hill Elementary at $43,608. Machias Elementary is larger and its utility cost was $3,982 less.

    How and when does the district receive developer impact fees?
    Impact fees are calculated based on a formula developed to comply with the requirements of the Growth Management Act. The formula generates an impact fee where the district has growth-related capacity needs (based on student enrollment projections) and projects planned to address those needs within the six-year planning period. The Snohomish School District was last able to collect impact fees in 2013. The district will update its Capital Facilities Plan, which is the basis for collecting school impact fees, in 2020.   

    Does the state provide district construction dollars to aid in these projects?
    If the bond is approved by voters, state construction dollars would provide another $20 million to aid with construction costs. Receipt of those funds from the state is uncertain based upon state prioritization of funds.

    Is the district growing?
    District enrollment has plateaued/slightly declined in recent years after peaking in 2016-2017 with the addition of full-day kindergarten. The graph below shows the Average Annual FTE (AAFTE) enrollment for the district. That said, our current building capacity is unable to support past growth. As a result, 51 portable classrooms are currently being used for student instruction (43 classrooms at K-6 and 8 classrooms at 9-12).

    Snohomish School District AAFTE Enrollment


    How have variances impacted student enrollment?
    The state provides funding for all students including those on variance. In the 2019-2020 school year, the district has accepted 841 students (K-12) on variance from other districts. Some of these students began their academic careers in the Snohomish School District, but over time their family situation changed or their families moved to other areas. Variances allow these students to complete their education with us. In addition, 403 Snohomish School District students (K-12) variance to other school districts, creating a net difference of 438 students (K-12). Students on variance provide a rich diversity within the student body, as well as allowing the district to provide a more robust schedule of classes and opportunities.

    How has all-day kindergarten and the new student teacher ratios affected school capacity?
    All-day kindergarten and the K-3 teacher ratio funded through the state have increased the number of physical classrooms needed for those grade levels. For 2019-2020, these changes require approximately 35 additional classrooms.

    How much over capacity are district classrooms?
    Snohomish School District elementary schools are 13% over capacity on average across the district. For example, Dutch Hill Elementary is 52% over capacity, and Seattle Hill Elementary is 72% over capacity (2019-2020 school year).

    What is the average lifespan of a portable classroom?
    A portable classroom typically lasts about 20 years and up to 25 years with aggressive maintenance. The district's portable classrooms at the seven impacted elementary schools are on average 21-years-old.

    How many district students have classes in portable classrooms?
    A quarter (25%) of district 4th through 6th graders are in a portable classroom. Forty-three are used for general education or special services instruction at the impacted elementary schools, while another eight are at Glacier Peak High School.

    Will the elementary schools that are being replaced have separate physical education and lunchroom spaces such as those at Little Cedars Elementary, Riverview Elementary and Machias Elementary?
    The six elementary schools will be replaced with separate physical education and lunchroom spaces. These separate spaces would be available for community use.

    Would Cathcart Elementary be moved to a new location?
    The Citizens Facilities Advisory Committee recommended that Cathcart Elementary be moved to a more central location in the Clearview area. If that is not possible within the schedule, the school would be replaced on its present site. The school district has no plans to sell the property.

    December 2019 update: After exploring the option of moving Cathcart farther north, the current thinking is Cathcart Elementary could be rebuilt on its current school site. If the bond measure passes, the new school will likely take a year to design the school and get permits. Construction would take an additional two years. The Cathcart Elementary campus has almost 14 acres of land, and the district believes there is room to construct a new school and keep learning in the existing Cathcart Elementary at the same time. 

    Why is it proposed that Central Primary Center and Emerson Elementary be combined?
    Our district's educational standards are K-6. Combining these two facilities also eliminates unnecessary transitions for students moving from 2nd to 3rd grade.

    Why is there a need to build at Glacier Peak High School?
    Due to state standards that students graduate with 24 credits, there is an increased need at Glacier Peak High School for classroom space. Glacier Peak High School currently houses eight portable classrooms. With the proposed new construction, those classrooms would become integrated with the existing school building.

    How much of our existing property taxes are earmarked for the 2004 and 2008 bonds?
    Throughout the years, the school district has refinanced some of the bonds to benefit the taxpayer and take advantage of lower interest rates. In 2019, the portion of your school district property taxes that was earmarked for bond repayment (2004 and 2008 bond measures) was $2.8752 per $1,000/assessed value.

    When will the taxes we are paying from the 2004 and 2008 bonds expire?
    The taxes paid from the previous bonds will expire in 2029. The Citizens Facilities Advisory Committee noted that the district could not wait until 2029 to address the facility needs.

    Why is this bond proposal so much more than the 2004 and 2008 bonds?
    Construction costs have vastly increased (in some cases doubled) within the current decade.

    How is the investor “rating” of a bond determined?
    When a bond issue is approved by voters, the school district receives a “rating” on its financial condition. This “rating” communicates the level of risk to investors who may purchase the district’s bonds. The higher a district’s rating, the lower the risk to investors and the lower the interest rate district taxpayers will pay for that bond. Snohomish School District's investor rating is AA+ (Standard & Poors - February 2016).

    Why did it take two bond issues to finish Snohomish High School?
    The proposed construction budgets for Little Cedars Elementary, Glacier Peak High School and Snohomish High School were developed prior to the 2004 bond's passing. Construction costs significantly escalated between 2004-2006. Construction of Little Cedars Elementary and Glacier Peak High School, which were also part of the 2004 bond, could not be phased.

    How do we prevent running out of funds like what happened in 2006?
    Monies have been built into each project to include projected construction escalation costs. Projected project costs include permitting, design, site costs, construction, technology, utilities, furniture, sales tax and escalation costs. For example, the cost to replace Totem Falls Elementary (2026 construction) is about 13% more than the other schools which would be constructed in 2023.

    What were the projects included in the 2004 and 2008 bonds?
    These are the capital projects completed as part of the 2004 bond:

    These are capital projects completed as part of the 2008 bond:

    Wasn't there supposed to be a phase 3 that addressed these issues at the remaining elementary schools?
    The 2004 Citizens Facilities Advisory Committee report proposed a third bond for 2012. Due to the economic downturn, that bond proposal could not be submitted to the voters. As a result, the seven remaining elementary schools were not renovated or rebuilt.

    Was the 2008 bond completed on time and within budget?
    The 2008 bond was completed on time and under budget. Savings from the capital program were used to fund many additional projects including safety and security measures for seven elementary lobbies and additional district-wide improvements.

    What is the Citizens Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC)?
    The Snohomish School District’s Citizens Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) is an appointed community group that studies district facilities for educational usefulness based on facility conditions, educational standards and enrollment projections. Together, this community group:

    • Reviews the physical conditions of the district facilities,
    • Evaluates the physical conditions for adequacy and longevity of district operation,
    • Reviews district demographic and student growth projections,
    • Reviews the previous CFAC recommendations,
    • Studies current and future instructional and educational models,
    • Prioritizes facility needs and,
    • Updates the Board of Directors on a regular basis as determined by the Board of Directors. Ultimately the group will make a recommendation to the Board that helps guide the district’s vision for its facilities.
    • CFAC formed in 2003 to review and recommend to the Board of Directors facilities improvements based on need. The group reconvened 2007 to provide next phase of facility improvements recommendations to the Board of Directors. The group reconvened again in 2018 and continued with its facilities review. In May 2019 CFAC formulated a recommendation to the Board of Directors.
    • Learn more about CFAC, its members and its recommendations at

    I'm a senior citizen or disabled person who meets certain income requirements, will I still have to pay taxes?
    Senior and disabled citizens who meet certain income requirements may be able to defer or be exempt from part or all of local school taxes. To learn more, click here to visit the Snohomish County Assessor’s Office website or call 425-388-3433.

    How do you register to vote?
    All voting/elections in Washington state are by mail-in ballot.