Frequently asked questions about the bond measure

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As reported in The Columbian (“Clark County districts look to future as they plan schools,” published Dec. 4, 2016), it is more expensive to build schools than to build homes. Reasons for this include the size of the facility; the diversity of spaces in a school (gyms, science labs, arts spaces and more); regulatory factors; and fees associated with the architects, engineers, consultants and contractors who are involved in school construction projects.

To determine exactly how much you’re currently paying in property taxes, visit the Clark County property information center. Enter your address, then select the “Taxes” tab and “Tax statements.”

Related: What is the total tax rate?

Potential boundary changes have not yet been considered. As the district’s overall enrollment grows and new schools are built, some adjustments could become necessary to alleviate overcrowding. Should the need for boundary changes arise, the district will involve the public and work to minimize the impact on families.

Project completions will be subject to the design and permitting process as well as the availability of contractors. Some of the projects are scheduled to be complete within two years. All of the projects are planned to be complete within seven years.

Approximately 21 years.

No. Money from the bond measure is placed in the district’s capital projects fund. Per state law, money from this fund cannot be transferred to other funds or used for unrelated purposes.

A bond is a way for an organization to pay for a major project such as remodeling or construction by borrowing a large sum of money. Money from local property taxes would be used to pay back that loan over time.

The temporary increase of $0.09 per $1,000 of assessed value will become effective with the 2018 calendar year. However, current district-issued bonds will be retired near the end of the 2020 calendar year and the rate will drop by $0.17 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Vancouver Public Schools collects a maintenance and operations levy, technology levy and bond funds from property owners who live within the district’s boundaries. Levies and bonds are used for different things. Levy dollars pay for educational programs, technology and day-to-day operations of schools. Bonds pay for facilities.

Collection on the new bond will begin in 2018. A property owner is projected to pay the following in 2018 per $1,000 of assessed property value:

M & O levy Tech levy Existing bonds* New bond Total
$2.68 $0.23 $1.34 $0.18 ($0.09 increase over 2017 bond rate) $4.43

Projected bond rates after 2018

From 2019 to 2021, a property owner is projected to pay the following for bonds only per $1,000 of assessed property value:

Calendar year Existing bonds* New bond Total bond tax rate
2019 $1.30 $0.22 $1.52
2020 $0.70 $0.82 $1.52
2021 N/A (retired) $1.35 $1.35
*Existing bonds will be retired near the end of 2020.

Related: How much am I currently paying?

Bonds = buildings, levies = operations

Levies and bonds are used for different things. Levy dollars pay for educational programs and day-to-day operations of schools, including:

  • Teacher and staff support
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Classroom supplies, textbooks and equipment
  • Utilities and insurance
  • Safety and security staff

Levies are not typically used for significant construction and must be renewed in two-, three- or four-year intervals. The last levy that local voters approved for Vancouver Public Schools was in February 2016.

Bonds pay for facilities, including:

  • New construction
  • Replacement schools
  • Building upgrades, e.g., new roofs, heating and cooling systems
  • Safe and secure entrances
  • Remodeling and expansion

If approved by local voters, bonds are eligible for state matching funds. They are paid off over a maximum of 20 years.

The last bond measure that local voters approved for Vancouver Public Schools was in February 2017.

Yes. In 2016, the state provided VPS with $43 million to assist with class-size reductions. Because voters approved the 2017 bond measure, the state also will supply an additional projected $50 million to fund construction and upgrades.

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The bond plan’s beginnings date back to 2008, when current and former students; employees; parents; and community, agency and business leaders came together to help Vancouver Public Schools craft a new strategic plan. That plan, called Design II, prioritized pre-kindergarten education, high-quality teaching, digital technology tools, family involvement, safety, positive school climates and programs that help students discover their unique talents and interests.

While VPS made gains in those areas over the next eight years, the district’s existing facilities did not accommodate all of the goals outlined in the plan. For example, lack of space due to overcrowding prohibited some schools from implementing Family-Community Resource Centers to increase family involvement. In other schools, space constraints meant that not every interested student could participate in programs.

The plan to replace, expand or upgrade every school in the district was developed over two years. To determine what’s best for students, VPS gathered input from students, parents, family members, staff members, volunteers, community members and district partners. In March 2015, the district conducted a survey about facility needs that captured responses from 1,500 people. Over the next year and a half, 12 symposia involving hundreds of people provided insights about schools and visions for the future of education. The district then worked with school staff members and professional architects to transform those ideas into design concepts. Feedback provided in community and online surveys and at staff presentations and open houses also helped to refine the plan.

Under certain conditions, people with disabilities or citizens 61 years of age or older are eligible for a tax exemption. Consideration is given to income, ownership of the taxable residence and other factors. For more information and to apply for an exemption, contact the Clark County Assessor’s Office by calling 360-397-2391, email taxreduction@clark.wa.gov or visit the Assessor’s Office’s website.

The $458 million bond measure approved in February 2017 will increase temporarily the bond tax rate by $0.09 per $1,000 of assessed property value for three years.

When combined with the existing bonds, the bond rate is projected to be $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed value for tax collection years 2018–2020 and then drop to $1.35 per $1,000 assessed value starting in 2021.

For the owner of a median-priced $225,000 home, the change in the VPS bond tax rate is about $20 per year for three years.

The three-year operations levy, approved by voters in 2016, will cost $2.68 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2018. The technology levy, approved by voters in 2013, will cost $0.23 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2018. With the bond, combined local school tax rates will be $4.43.

The district conducted an extensive community-engagement effort to determine the scope of need and develop the bond plan while balancing careful consideration of the needs with a desire to keep tax rates stable. The district’s board of directors approved the plan and bond amount at its Nov. 8, 2016, board meeting.

Don’t see your question answered here?

For construction-related questions, call 360-313-1040 or send an email to the planning office.

For general questions about bonds and levies, call 360-313-1230 or send an email to the communications office.