Skip To ContentSkip To Content

    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. Technology and infrastructure have received upgrades as well.

    Currently, projects are in progress funded by the BEX IV Capital Levy and the BEX V Capital Levy.

    BEX IV is a $694.9 million capital levy approved 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 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. Levy funds are collected through 2019. Levy-funded projects may continue after that year. See current construction projects.

    BEX V is a $1.4 billion capital levy approved by Seattle voters in February 2019. BEX V replaces the expiring capital levy that was approved by Seattle voters in 2013. The BEX V Capital Levy funds school construction and building improvements as well as technology investments. Projects were chosen based on direction from the Seattle School Board. Under an overarching framework of Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity (Board Policy No. 0030), five guiding principles were used: Building Safety and Security, Right-Size Capacity, Building Conditions and Educational Alignment, Environmental and Financial Sustainability, and Updating Technology. See current construction projects.

    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 was approved by Seattle voters. It included $335.5 million for buildings projects, $104.7 million for technology projects, and $35.2 million for academics and athletics projects. BTA IV is currently providing funds for upgrades and renovations of aging school facilities to help ensure a safe, secure and productive teaching and learning environment. See current construction projects.

    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 and BTA Capital Levies Oversight Committee?

    The BEX and BTA Capital Levies Oversight Committee is a citizen oversight committee required by the School Board. The focus of the committee is to ensure that BEX and BTA capital levy-funded projects program support academic achievement in the schools. The committee also oversees program revenues, expenditures, planning for future BEX and BTA levies or bonds, and the impact of other district capital programs on BEX and BTA projects.

    The committee meets monthly for briefings and is asked to comment on and make recommendations for progress of BEX and BTA projects. The committee oversees the planning, prioritization, and implementation of current and future BEX and BTA projects. The committee reviews proposals and makes recommendations on the identity, scope, and priority of projects to be included in future 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 V (BEX V) Capital Levy was approved by voters in February 2019 to build new schools, replace schools, and expand existing schools, thus increasing capacity.

    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 an assessment of building conditions. This assessment was made in 2018, 2014, 2009, and 2006 to provide a comprehensive review of the current status of all district-owned school buildings and sites, including any that are vacant or leased to tenants.

    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 prioritize work on the district’s 100+ buildings. The highest priority will be buildings that need work to improve conditions to provide safety and security for students and staff.