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Spokane School District patrons to vote on two measures in February

Adams Elementary is one of the schools that would be replaced by money from the Spokane School District's 2024 bond issue.
SPS video screenshot
Adams Elementary is one of the schools that would be replaced by money from the Spokane School District's 2024 bond issue.

The Spokane School District will go to voters with two ballot measures on February 13, 2024.

Its $200 million, six-year bond issue would take care of pressing capital needs. Its three-year property tax levy would replace the current levy, which supplements the basic education funding provided by the state.

Superintendent Adam Swinyard says the levy is the least sexy of the two, but provides important services.

“People expect that there’s going to be nursing support in their schools. They expect that there’s going to be middle and high school activities, athletics and performing arts. They expect our schools to be staffed well with counselors. And so the levy really comes in and provides what are the things our community has grown to consider a public school experience in Spokane,” he said.

Swinyard says the levy provides about 14% of the district’s annual funding. He says the new proposal was designed to keep the burden on taxpayers relatively steady over its three-year life. The district would collect $95 million in 2025, $99 million in 2026 and $103 million in 2027.

When it comes to the bond issue, district officials have devised a new list of projects to work on during the next six years.

“What you’ll see on this bond is our oldest, most outdated elementary schools are our top priority,” Swinyard said.

Adams Elementary in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood and Madison Elementary in Franklin Park would be rebuilt.

“Adams is one of our oldest facilities in the district,” he said. “It has significant needs in terms of class spaces, HVAC systems, access for individuals with disabilities. Madison is an example where they have no air conditioning and we see more and more school days there that are pretty hot,” which makes the school uncomfortable and learning difficult.

Swinyard says the district would design new buildings to replace Indian Trail and Balboa schools. Those would be built with money from the next bond issue, scheduled to go before voters in 2030.

It would also remodel Garry Middle School in the northeast and upgrade and expand Chase Middle School on the south side.

“We’re seeing lots of growth in that part of the city [south Spokane] and we recently moved our sixth graders into middle schools because of elementary growth and the interest in having low elementary class sizes, so we need to accommodate that configuration and that growth at Chase with an addition,” Swinyard said.

The bond issue would pay to finish a long-running remodeling project at North Central High School.

“We sometimes say that North Central is like SeaTac [International Airport]. You know they’re always working on SeaTac. We’re always working on North Central,” he said.

Other projects on the bond list: a new space for the Community School and money for improvements for the district’s Montessori school and the Libby Center.

Despite all of those projects, Swinyard says the 2024 bond issue represents a much smaller ask than the measure voters approved in 2018 that financed three new middle schools.

Swinyard says a workgroup developed a long list of projects and the school board whittled it down to the list covered by this ballot measure.

“In 2018 we ran a $500 million bond, largest bond in the history of Spokane Public Schools. We’re going to bring that all the way down to $200 million. The primary reason is not because we still don’t have many schools that need modernization. It’s really about the explosion of assessed value because what we wanted to accomplish was a relatively stable tax bill, dollars out of the pocket for our citizens,” he said.

Spokane’s bond issue and levy are on the same February 13 ballot as measures from 16 other Spokane County school districts.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.