Survey: Evergreen Public Schools bond has plenty of support

District to float construction bond in February

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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As Evergreen Public Schools ramps up to ask voters for hundreds of millions of dollars for school construction dollars, a district-commissioned survey shows its voters overwhelmingly support the effort.

A survey of 400 voters in the east Vancouver school district found that 68 percent of voters support a construction bond, according to records obtained by the district. Bonds need 60 percent approval to pass.

The survey, conducted by Portland firm CFM Strategic Communications, also found student security, classroom overcrowding and state match dollars among voters’ priorities. The bond questions were included in the district’s biennial survey, which cost the district $14,000, spokeswoman Gail Spolar said.

If approved, the district would build a new elementary school, and replace five elementary schools, Wy’east Middle School, 49th Street Academy and two high schools. The district would also construct a new addition to Heritage High School, replace the district’s central offices and make improvements across the district.

The district is also estimated to receive $95 million in state matching funds, as well as $12 million in local development impact fees. That brings the total package to $802 million.

The October survey results, Superintendent John Steach said, are promising.

“When the survey came back as positively as it did, it made us much more comfortable putting it on a February ballot,” Steach said.

In the meantime, the district is launching an advertising campaign on its social media accounts, featuring videos of the schools and the students who attend them. Student interns in the district office are developing the videos.

Of those who didn’t support the bond, a quarter are against a potential tax increase. But the district projects that when old bonds are sold and new collection begins in 2019, the bond rate per $1,000 in assessed value will taper off from $5 in 2017 to $3.27 in 2019.

“Right now we’re just trying to make sure that everyone in the district understands what’s included and what the impacts are,” Steach said. “We’re really educating people on all of the nuances. The last thing we want is for inaccurate information to be the basis of their decisions.”

The election is Feb. 13.