By Jack Mayne Highline Public Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield briefed the Burien City Council on Monday (July 25) about the critically needed $299.4 million bond issue, which is seeking voter approval to fix some drastic physical problems at Highline High School and other buildings in the district. Enfield referred to â€œa real heartbreakerâ€ loss when 59.28 percent approved a bond issue last year â€“ just shy of the 60 percent approval needed. So the district did some research on what they could do differently this third time. Enfield said it was decided that it was necessary to allow â€œmore of our citizens to dig into the information that we were immersed in all the time and see what the needs are, what the data really said about what the capital needs are.â€ The district chose a wide range of â€œabout 40 peopleâ€ to be on anÂ advisory committee which spent the past several months digging into the data to find what the district’s physical facility needs were. Enfield said the group came up with the bond proposal for the Nov. 8 election,Â but also for a later-on series of measures to fix all of the districtâ€™s capital needs because â€œour needs far outweigh our ability to do everything all at once.â€ She said â€œwe will rebuild Highline High School, that is our most critical need,â€ and that the faÃ§ade of the building will â€œbe retained as much as financially feasible.â€ That project alone will cost about $103 million. A new $49 million elementary school will be built on the so-called Zenith Property in Des Moines because a new elementary there is the second highest need for replacement. A new middle school on â€œour Glacier siteâ€ will be â€œa little overâ€ $93 million. Replacing capital fund Additionally, Enfield said $19 million will be â€œset aside for our capital fund â€“ because of our double bond failure our capital fund will be pretty much depleted.â€ If that was allowed to happen, emergency repairs could not be carried out. Improvements costing $18 million will be made to the Olympic site near north hill, to be used while Highline High is rebuilt, as well as â€œany other future construction project.â€ She said the bond issue will also permit $14 million for beginning design of new Evergreen High School, Tyee High School and Pacific Middle School campuses with money for actual construction to be sought in future bond issues. The bond issue is a lot of money she said, but the district is growing to nearly 20,000 students and has also made some significant improvements. â€œAs you know, our graduation rates finally got out of the 60s last year and got to 70.2 percent â€¦ we expect those rates to continue to climb and we wonâ€™t be satisfied until we get above 95 percent,â€ Enfield said. â€œWeâ€™ve made a concerted effort at recruitment and hiring and retention and we will have perhaps our most diverse staff next yearâ€¦â€ â€œI know you have heard some concerns from citizens about our teacher turnover rate â€¦ it has actually gone down the last three years, contrary to what you have heard,â€ Enfield said. In the 2013-2014 year, she said teacher turnover rate was 12.9 percent, and for the 2014-2015 school year it was 11.6 percent. â€œFor the past year it was 11.1, on a downward, not an upward climb,â€ Enfield said. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, on the telephone, asked how the turnover rate compared with nearby school districts. Enfield said Highlineâ€™s turnover rate was lower than Federal Way and higher than Renton School District. â€œWe are higher and we are lower but we are not out of the range in any one direction, up or down,â€ Enfield said. City budget â€˜structural debtâ€™ City Finance Director Kim Krause gave the Council its first view of the general fund and street fund potentials for the 2017 through 2022 â€“ it was not always a pretty view. She also focused on the â€œstructural deficitâ€ or when the â€œexpenditures grow faster than the revenues and the gap widens the further out you go.â€ State law is what restricts the cityâ€™s revenue growth and causes the growing income vs. expenditures gap. The forecast is just that, a forecast, she said, under the city policy is not intended to be a recommended budget, but a six-year planning tool that assumes current service levels are retained and in which estimates are conservative and the expenditures are overstated. The structural deficit will worsen with time, Krause said, because the â€œdrivers are limitations on current revenue sources and predictable costs. She noted that the income tax benefit the city got from the Legislature when the southern part of North Highline Unincorporated Area was annexed will end in the 2020 â€“ 2021 biennium. Krause said the city has a lot of old software that needs to be replaced because it is no longer being supported by the companied from which it was purchased. Replacement costs are upwards of $2 million over the next few years. Revenue forecasts have come back to what they were before the financial downturn, she said, even though expenditures are growing at a slightly higher rate. Every three years the city compares staff salaries with surrounding municipalities. â€œThe forecast show a surplus of approximately $670,000 in 2017 but it declines to about $177,000 in 2018,â€ she said. â€œWhile it looks good in 2017, it is already not sustained because of the structural deficit because the revenues do not grow as fast as the expenditures.â€ She noted there would be additional costs associated with the new strategic plan and those expenditures are not included in the current forecast. The forecast included the 1 percent property tax increase under the state law but did not include impact of the coming end of the sales tax exemption for the Burien Town Square condominiums. There is some good news, Krause said, and that is the increased projections of the sales tax revenues. She said the projections are a 12 percent increase from $7.9 million in 2016 to $8.85 million in 2017 and another 4 percent increase to $9.2 million is projected for 2018 and beyond. There are options for new revenues, she said, including such items as increasing the Seattle City Light franchise fee from 5 percent to 8 percent, which would bring in another $425,000 but requires a one-year advance notice to the utility. The city increased the business and occupations tax just last year. Another potential increase is adopting a water and sewer district franchise fee or to double business license fees to gain $300,000 a year. Krause said the city also could consider a metropolitan parks district, but suggested that would be better used if the Council decided to go ahead with a community center plan. Another possibility would be to see voter approval for an increase in the levy lid to the maximum of $1.50 per $100,000 of assessed valuation and or a one-year levy lit hike with a 60 percent majority vote and a 40 percent voter turnout.]]>
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