Capital Projects and Planning FAQs
What are Capital Levies?
Capital levies allow school districts to collect property tax money from local property owners to fund capital improvements. Capital improvements typically refer to the addition of permanent structural improvements or upgrades that will enhance value or increase the useful life of a property.
Seattle Public Schools has two capital levy funded programs: Building Excellence (BEX) and Buildings, Technology and Academics (BTA). Every three years, Seattle Public Schools submits a ballot measure proposition to Seattle voters. These levies alternate between the BEX and BTA capital levies.
What is the BEX Capital Levy?
The Building Excellence (BEX) capital program is a six year capital program approved by Seattle voters. There have been three Building Excellence levies/bonds since 1995. The $330 million BEX I Capital Levy passed in 1995; BEX II, a $398 million capital levy, was approved in 2001; and the $490 million BEX III bond passed in 2007. These three programs have replaced, renovated and modernized 39 schools in the district. In addition, technology and infrastructure have received upgrades as well.
Currently, the BEX IV capital program is in progress. This $694.9 million capital levy was approved by more than 72 percent of Seattle voters in February 2013. It supports the district’s long-range plans to upgrade and renovate aging school facilities and address enrollment growth. BEX IV continues the work to replace or modernize district buildings, infrastructure and technology with previous levies. It will allow the district to address earthquake and safety issues, capacity needs, building condition and infrastructure improvements and major preventive maintenance needs throughout the school district. BEX IV projects were chosen based on four criteria as approved by the School Board: safety and security, capacity needs, building condition and maximizing flexibility for programs and services.
Visit our BEX IV webpage
What is the BTA Capital Levy?
The Buildings, Technology and Academics/Athletics (BTA) capital program is a six year capital program approved by Seattle voters. BTA funds many needed small renovations and major maintenance projects in school buildings, technology improvements and academic support infrastructure. There have been three BTA capital levies since 1998. The $150 million BTA I Capital Levy was approved in 1998; BTA II, a $178 million capital levy, was approved in 2004; and the $270 million BTA III Capital Levy was approved in 2010.
In February 2016, the $475.3 million BEX IV Capital Levy will go before Seattle voters. It includes $335.5 million for buildings projects, $104.7 million for technology projects and $35.2 million for academics and athletics projects. If approved, it will provide funds for upgrades and renovations of aging school facilities to help ensure a safe, secure and productive teaching and learning environment.
Are there other funding sources for capital improvements or repairs?Capital Eligible Programs (CEP) dedicates proceeds from real estate transactions to capital projects. Using capital funds for major maintenance items was authorized by the state government in 2010. The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) provides some matching funds for OSPI approved capital projects.
What is the BEX Oversight Committee?
The BEX Programs Oversight Committee is a citizen oversight committee required by the School Board. The focus of the committee is to ensure the BEX program supports academic achievement in the schools, as well as program revenues, expenditures, planning for future BEX levies or bonds and the impact of other district capital programs that affect the BEX program.
The committee meets monthly for briefings and is asked to comment on and make recommendations for progress of the BEX program, and the district’s other capital programs, to the extent they affect BEX projects. The committee oversees the planning, prioritization and implementation of current and future BEX programs. The committee reviews proposals and makes recommendations on the identity, scope and priority of projects to be included in future BEX levies, monitors the implementation of all approved projects and makes recommendations for compliance with goals, priorities, scope, budget, schedule, revenue and other significant factors.
What is the district doing to address growing enrollment?
Seattle Public Schools needs to add capacity to accommodate additional students. Capacity management requires working to balance the number of students at each school with the space available. Capital Projects and Planning staff work on capacity planning in three timeframes: short-term, mid-term and long-term.
By calculating building capacity and working with the enrollment planning department, various efforts have been developed to address the increasing number of students enrolled in the district, including the opening of closed schools.
The Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) Capital Levy was approved by voters in February 2013 to build new schools, replace schools and expand existing schools, thus increasing capacity.
With schools in some areas of the city more crowded or growing faster than others, the 2013 Growth Boundaries Project used building capacity data, enrollment projections and other information to revise school boundaries and balance enrollment.
How is building maintenance funded?
Beginning in 2010, the Washington State legislature approved the use of capital funds for major maintenance projects such as roof repairs and painting. Previously, all maintenance had to be funded by the district’s general fund.
The general fund is the only option for maintenance and custodial work that is not capital eligible. As the general fund also pays for education programs such as teaching and learning, transportation and student services, the district must balance the use of these funds in the way that best benefits students.
How do you evaluate the conditions of buildings and how do you determine which schools receive work first?
Seattle Public Schools hires a firm to conduct the Facilities Conditions Assessment (FCA), often referred to as “The Meng Report.” This assessment was made in 2014, 2009 and 2006 and provides a comprehensive review of the current status of all district owned school buildings and sites, including any that are vacant or leased to tenants.
The FCA includes descriptions of the condition of building systems, such as the heating and cooling system and the exterior envelope. It also evaluates educational adequacy — how well the current building design and layout supports teaching and learning. The FCA also includes a cost estimate for upgrading each building and infrastructure component to “like new” status.
Just as a homeowner creates a list of work to be done at home and prioritizes the projects, so too does the SPS Capital Projects and Planning Department for the district’s 100+ buildings. The highest priority will be buildings which need work to improve conditions to provide safety and security for students and staff.
Visit our Facilities Conditions Assessment webpage.
What is the maintenance and repair backlog?
The backlog of maintenance and repair (BMAR) from the 2014 report (the most recent Facilities Conditions Report) is $508 million. This includes buildings that were under construction at the time of the survey (such as Fairmount Park) and were calculated as their pre-construction BMAR. By the end of BTA III in 2016 and BEX IV in 2019, the BMAR will have been reduced to $324 million, a reduction of 32 percent.
If the BTA IV Capital Levy is approved by Seattle voters in February 2016, the BMAR will be reduced to from $508 million as of 2014 to $247 million by the time all projects are completed in 2022.
What is the “Facilities Master Plan”?
The facilities master plan is a facilities improvement plan. It is designed to move building improvement efforts from a reactive repair program to a data-driven, proactive renovation/building replacement program that supports the educational program. The building improvement program may include renovations of existing facilities and additions to existing buildings. It may also involve construction of new schools to replace outdated ones or to add capacity as enrollment increases.
The 2012 facilities master plan is the latest version and was adopted by the School Board in 2012. It provides planning information for 10 years, to school year 2012-22.
Visit our Facilities Master Plan webpage.