The Bellevue City Council unanimously voted at its Jan. 21 meeting to approve a resolution that supports the proposed Bellevue School District (BSD) capital bond measure.
The bond will be on the Feb. 11 special election ballot. If passed by the public, it will add to the local tax rate $0.03 to every $1,000 of assessed value. This is a less-than-1-percent increase.
The bond will garner some $675 million for school capital enhancements. It needs to be supported by at least 60 percent of voters to be implemented.
If approved, the new measure would take the place of a similar bond that became effective in 2014.
Currently, for a Bellevue resident with a home valued at the average of $850,000, $2.43 per $1,000 is paid on an assessed property value. The bond would increase that to $2.46 per $1,000, coming to about $25.50 annually compared to the current rate.
At its previous meeting, the city council received a school-district report that covered what the bond would fund. Improvements include the addition of security vestibules, safety posts to entrances and more.
The bond also would help rebuild Big Picture School, International School and Jing Mei Elementary at their current sites, as well as renovate the Newport and Interlake High Schools.
Before the council took its vote at the Jan. 21 meeting, those both in favor of and in opposition to the measure were able to speak to the council before the vote for the resolution was conducted.
There were no opponents who signed up to speak at the meeting. But two representatives in favor of the measure — community members and BSD parents Renuka Getchell and Michael Chen — argued for its passage, and shared why they thought it was significant for the council to endorse the measure.
“I think it is really important that community and the schools are really important to the city of Bellevue,” said Getchell, who is a real estate agent. “In real estate, there’s the saying ‘location, location, location.’ In recent years, it’s ‘schools, schools, location.’”
“That’s key — to plan for the future,” Chen said. “As a land-use planner by trade during the day, I’ve seen the growth of Bellevue. I’ve been here since ‘94, and I’ve seen the changes. It’s exciting to see what’s ahead for the next 30, 40, 50 years.”
Chen added that endorsement by the city is crucial in supporting the idea that “dynamic schools make dynamic communities.”
The council was united in its support of the resolution. Some councilmembers, Janice Zahn and Jennifer Robertson, brought up their own experiences as parents of children who are educated by the district.
Robertson, who has had kids in the BSD at different times over the last 17 years, shared that one of her daughters, who currently attends Newport High School, eats outside every day because of a lack of space in the cafeteria.
“We need the facilities for kids; we need the facilities for new programs, because having a usable, positive and safe — emphasis on the “safe” with the safety upgrades — [environment] for learning is really important for the health of our youth,” Robertson said. “And as the health of our youth, there goes the health of our community. For me, I think — and I think we all agree — that good schools are one of the cornerstones of having a great community. In Bellevue, we’re lucky to have both.”
Councilmember John Stokes noted that although he’s aware that the amount of money needed for improvements might make some community members wary, it’s necessary for students to have quality environments in which to learn.
“What you get out of it, and what this district does and what the levy has done, is come up with a quality plan and effort for buildings and structure and infrastructure that will match and accelerate the education and the excellence of the education,” Stokes said. “I just think this is a winner all around. This community can afford [the measure]. It’s a very, very small increase, actually, when it comes down to the taxes. It’s well worth it, and this community has always, always supported bonds and levies for the districts. And there’s no reason to quit doing it now.”
For the full conversation around the bond’s support, watch the Jan. 21 Bellevue City Council meeting recording online (https://bit.ly/38L65Z6).