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Upcoming Whatcom County election has proposed bond worth $122 million

Bellingham homeowners could see a property tax increase in 2023 if the 2022 Bond is passed in the special election

Caption: A ballot drop box on Western Washington University's campus outside of Bond Hall in Bellingham, Wash. on Jan 26, 2022. An upcoming special election in Whatcom County on February 8, 2022, will require Whatcom county residents to drop their ballots off in one. // Photo by Kieran Bresnahan

Eligible voters in Bellingham, Wash. will vote to pass or reject a proposed $122 million Bellingham Public Schools 2022 Bond in a special election on February 8, 2022.

If passed, the 2022 Bond will help fund current projects, which were previously approved on the 2018 Bellingham Public Schools Bond.

The proposed Bellingham Public Schools Bond would provide funding for the redesign of Carl Cozier, Columbia, and Roosevelt Elementary schools and a new elementary school on King Mountain in north Bellingham. 

Dana Smith, district spokesperson for Bellingham Public Schools, said that COVID-19 increased construction costs for ongoing projects passed on the 2018 Bond. The 2022 Bond will provide the funding needed to complete these projects as well as funding for five new areas of investment.

“The same reason that folks weren’t building decks [was] because it was going to cost twice as much to build a deck, just supply chain issues and labor issues just raise the cost on everything,” Smith said. 

The Bellingham Public Schools 2022 Bond comes on a special election ballot. Special elections, or by-elections, are any election that is not a general election and are usually held on the second Tuesday of February, according to The Municipal Research and Services Center.

“[Special elections] are held to allow cities, towns and other districts to place measures on the ballot that require voter approval,” said Fina Ormond, Deputy Director of Elections for the Office of the Secretary of State.

The bond will need a 60% supermajority to pass. If the bond passes, it will be repaid by an annual property tax increase for all homeowners within the Bellingham Public School District boundary. 

The current bond and levy tax rate in 2022 is $3.47 for every $1,000 of assessed home value. If voters approve the bond, the projected bond and levy rate will increase to $3.72 per $1000 assessed home value for 2023 and 2024. The assessed home value tax rate is based on estimates by the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office

What this means is that the tax rate for school levies and bonds would increase by an estimated $16.90 per month in 2023 when compared to 2022 for a median homeowner in Bellingham, according to the school district. 

“It’s our job to be good stewards of taxpayers' dollars, so we do not go out for money without a really long process of looking and thinking about how our community is going to receive that,” Smith said.

Celina Rodriguez, Ferndale School Districts' spokesperson, said that Washington state does not fully fund public education, so bonds and levies make up for the cost.

“School districts are required to pass levies [and bonds] in order to bridge the gap between the actual cost of education and what the state funds,” Rodriguez said.

A Facilities Planning Task Force that is composed of local Bellingham community members decides what new items will be included in the Bellingham Public Schools bond.

“We have a really long history of community support for our bonds and levies, so we really appreciate the trust that our community shows us,” Smith said.

All ballots will need to be dropped off at a local ballot drop box by 8:00 p.m. on February 8, 2022.

Kieran Bresnahan

Kieran Bresnahan is a city news reporter studying visual journalism at WWU. He enjoys writing about education and local businesses and taking photos of local events. 

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