Renton School District to retry bond measure

May 7, 2008

By Administrator

Get ready for another round of doorbelling.

Later this month, volunteers for the Renton School District bond measure will be ringing doorbells, urging voters to approve a $150 million construction bond measure on the May 20 ballot.

The measure lost by 78 votes in March and the Renton School Board voted unanimously two months ago to run the measure again in a special election.

“You’re going to see people from your neighborhood, perhaps the same people you see at the grocery store, coming by your home asking for your support May 20,” said Ed Prince, chairman of the Yes on Renton Schools campaign. “We want to put a face on this campaign, by showing that your neighbors support this measure.”

School officials were pleased that a $111.5 million four-year replacement maintenance and operations levy and a $33 million six-year technology levy passed by comfortable margins in the March 11 election.

“It was a bittersweet night for us,” Prince said. “We were happy for the M & O levy and the technology levy, and we were hoping to get the bond through, too.”

The bond measure was approved by 59.4 percent of voters casting ballots in March, but required a supermajority of 60 percent.

This month’s election will be entirely by mail. Proponents will also send out two waves of direct-mail advertising. The first mailing will be districtwide, while the second will focus on neighborhood schools. In the case of Newcastle, that means upgrades including adding a 10-classroom wing at Hazen High School.

The school will also get improvements to the kitchen, gymnasium and athletic fields. The bond also includes an $8 million overhaul for Renton Memorial Stadium, where all district high school teams play football, soccer, and track and field.

The district has had its share of close bond measure elections. In May 2002, a bond measure failed by seven votes. One year later, the bond measure won by 61 percent. That measure paid for the construction of Hazelwood Elementary School and three other elementary schools in Renton.

Property taxes will remain about $3.44 for every $1,000 of assessed value, although homeowners whose property value has increased will pay more.

Randy Matheson, district spokesman, said it would cost the district between $60,000 and $90,000 to put the measure on the May ballot.

Historically, Newcastle, Newport Hills, Kennydale and the Renton Highlands overwhelmingly vote yes on levies and bond measures, Matheson said. Neighborhoods near downtown Renton and southwest Renton have more residents voting no on school measures, he said.

About 26 percent of the registered voters cast ballots in the March 11 election.

“We heard from many people who forgot to turn in their ballot,” Matheson said of the March election.

Mandy Schendel, of Newcastle, said she plans to vote yes when she receives her ballot. Schendel, student body president at Hazen High School, turned 18 this month in time to vote in the election.

“This election is very important for the future of schools in our district,” she said.

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