With a little over a month until election day, Citizens for Support of Yelm Schools brought together over a hundred community members Monday, Jan. 7 at two separate events to kickoff the campaign season for passage of a $98.9 million bond. 

The bond will be on the ballot during a special election on Feb. 12. It would pay to replace Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary, as well as provide district-wide security upgrades. Yelm Community Schools hasn’t passed a bond since 2003. 

Community members, parents, Yelm Community Schools administrators and teachers, and local politicians gathered in support of the bond at the Yelm campaign kickoff at the Yelm Community Center. About 50 people gathered at the McKenna kickoff at Varsity Pizza, campaign manager Andrew Kollar said.

Attendees had the opportunity to enjoy snacks and refreshments, play “Bond” trivia, grab campaign gear and sign up for volunteer opportunities, such as doorbelling and phone banking. 

Kollar said the dual kickoffs were a success and now that people have their buttons, stickers and yard signs, the real work will soon start. 

Despite his busy schedule, Thurston County commissioner Gary Edwards was one of many who opted to clear their calendar in preparation for campaigning. 

“We recognize how important an education is to the development of a well-rounded community,” Edwards said. 

Edwards said supporting the Yelm school district is something that his family has always participated in, his father and grandfather were advocates for the district.

“It’s a family thing,” Edwards said. 

It’s important to support the bond, Edwards said, because the schools within Yelm are integral to every part of the community. 

Since lending the helm of campaign manager to Kollar, Citizens for Support of Yelm Schools co-chair Sandra Manwiller said this year’s campaign has felt more well-rounded and focused. She said having two kickoffs was a great idea to rally the community together. 

“I like to think of it as ‘two locations, one great cause,’” Manwiller said. 

Last year, Manwiller was in charge of the Yelm Community Schools bond that fell short of the 60 percent supermajority it needed to pass. Final tallies found that the bond fell short by 64 votes. 

“We have a lot of enthusiasm and energy this time around, and so we’re crossing our fingers,” Manwiller said. 

The bond would tax 96 cents per $1,000 of estimated property value in its first year. A drop in the levy tax rate will mitigate most of the bond’s cost and taxpayers could see a decrease of about $303 in their local tax amount even with the added bond.

If passed, the state will contribute about $23 million towards the replacement of Yelm Middle School and Southworth Elementary. 

Superintendent Brian Wharton spoke Monday night about how recent interest in the bond by new community members has set this bond and campaign apart from others that the district has held. 

Wharton said he also wanted to stress the district and citizens support group’s dedication to learn from last year’s bond proposal and community feedback. 

“We’ve tried to do replacement measures at other schools, but we said ‘we’re going to respect and respond to what the community said was most important,’” Wharton said. “And that is what this bond is about — it’s about safety at seven campuses and it’s about replacing Southworth and Yelm Middle School, and we’re going to get it done.”

Wharton said the district can’t offset the larger, more immediate facility repairs that they’ll need to address in the future. Southworth Elementary recently lost power to a third of its campus due to inferior technological infrastructure, Wharton said. 

A recent report by NVN found that 29 of the district’s 97 portable buildings were constructed within the last decade and about 10 portables could not have their age identified. 

The district said the bond could replace 30 portable buildings.

“We don’t need golden appliances or anything like that, but we do need up-to-date and modern spaces for our kids,” Wharton said. “They deserve it and we’re going to give it to them.”

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