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Tacoma Public Schools asking for crucial bond measure as many homeowners see big jumps in property taxes

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TACOMA - Oakland High School in Tacoma is falling apart in some places. Leaks are common throughout the high school.

“You can see this leak right here. There is another one right here, so every year at some point we have buckets somewhere in this room,” Principal John Jones said.

The 108-year-old school used to be an elementary school. That’s why a lot of the features in the building are meant for smaller people.

“This building was built so long ago it’s cost-prohibitive a lot of times to make some repairs,” Jones said.

Oakland High is one of eight schools that the district is hoping to renovate or replace through a bond that’s on the Feb. 11 ballot.

Prop 1 is a $535 million bond that Tacoma Public Schools says is vital not only for those eight schools but also for safety upgrades for all of their schools.

“If we want to continue to build our county as the best it can be our children need to be ready to step and do that,” Jones said.

If the bond is approved, it would raise property taxes modestly for an average Tacoma homeowner next year - $7 a month more or about $80 a year.

But the vote on Prop 1 is coming up at a time when some Pierce County homeowners are seeing big increases in their property taxes this year because of the state legislature’s decision to allow local school districts to raise their levies.

Due to the McCleary decision, the state injected billions more into public schools. On the flip side, the state also capped how much local districts could generate on their own. After complaints and negative impacts on local districts, the legislature allowed schools to raise their local levies.

“Once the legislature allowed school districts to go up to $2.50 some did and some didn’t, so the places we are seeing the very large 15% to 20% are the ones that did go up,” Pierce County Property Assessor Mike Lonegran said.

This means an average homeowner in Tacoma will see their property taxes go up by about $550 this year. For Sumner homeowners, it’s about $720 more per year and University Place around $1,000 more.

Tacoma homeowners like Lyle Roscoe says although property taxes overall are going up more than he expected he is still supporting Prop 1.

“Kind of like pro-education, getting kids up to speed these days,” Roscoe said.

He says it’s his generation looking out for the next one.

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