The last time a capital facilities proposal for the Central Valley School District appeared on the ballot, Mike Pearson was in the superintendent’s seat.
That was November 2003, when a $75.7 million bond failed to garner the required 60-percent supermajority, collecting just under 54 percent of the vote. A few months earlier, CVSD ran a measure for $55.2 million, only to see it fall short by three percentage points.
Pearson, who was hired by the district in 1978 and served as superintendent from 2003 until his retirement in 2007, also saw the most significant funding success in CVSD history when residents turned out in record numbers to pass a $78 million initiative in 1998. The vote would mean tax support for two new high schools and renovation projects at a handful of other campuses – in addition to $23 million in state matching funds.
Pearson said one of the keys to a win at the ballot was the plan to provide both University and Central Valley with original buildings.
“In the 1980s, there was this division – people on both sides would say, ‘Why should they get a new school?’” Pearson said. “When we talked about building identical schools, it united the district.”
Last Thursday, Pearson was part of the latest conversation about the future of CV facilities – this time as one of around 40 citizens who turned out at North Pines Middle School for the last in a series of four community discussions on the condition of district buildings and what to do about them. This time, the agenda included an overview of actual numbers that voters may encounter on a ballot in the not-so-distant future.
Jack Eaton of D.A. Davidson and Co. provided a summary of the dollar figures at the May 13 meeting that calculated the property tax rate beginning with a possible $65.2 million bond in 2011. That proposal would include funds for a new elementary school in the eastern section of the district at a pricetag of $13.1 million as well as a major renovation of Evergreen Middle School ($20.6 million) and refurbishing projects at Opportunity, Chester, Greenacres and Ponderosa elementary schools. The ballot measure would also bring an additional $32 million in a matching state grant.
Mike Bissell, chairman of the facilities committee, said the state dollars have been factored in based on information from Olympia.
“We’ve been told those funds are there and are going to stay,” he said.
There is currently $6.7 billion of assessed property value within district borders, Eaton said. Over the past decade, taxpayers have seen the rate drop steadily, from $2.03 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2000 to a current rate of $1.48 per $1,000. Factors like new construction have thinned out the tax obligation over the years, Eaton said.
If the district earned at least 60 percent of the vote in 2011, the tax rate would go up to $2.30 per $1,000, or $345 annually on a house valued at $150,000.
Bissell and others on the 18-person committee – comprised of parents, district administrators and representatives from local construction companies – have referred to the success of the Spokane Public School District while working on CV’s latest approach. District 81 now puts a capital facilities proposal on the ballot every six years to address aging and outdated schools.
Last March, Spokane voters passed a $332 million bond to rebuild Ferris High School and four other campuses. The capital facilities vote and an operations and maintenance levy both earned over 60 percent of the ballot.
Bob Weisbeck, a member of the committee who spoke at last week’s meeting, said the findings of the group over the past year – culled from building tours, research gathered by an architectural firm and reports from school principals – show shortfalls in buildings throughout the district.
“Before I started, I would have said there were no problems with our buildings,” he said.
The second group of projects in CVSD’s 25-year schedule – tentatively included as part of a 2015 bond – would involve construction of a new high school at a cost of $76.7 million. Reconstruction efforts at North Pines Middle School ($26 million); Broadway Elementary ($8.8 million) and Sunrise Elementary ($13 million) would also be incorporated.
Eaton said passage of the 2015 funding – totaling $124.5 million – would put the tax rate at $2.57 per $1,000 in 2016. The amount would decrease to $2.42 the following year and return to $2.30 in 2019 as the 2011 bond was retired.
The third bond in the 25-year program would include renovations of Barker High School, Horizon Middle School and Summit School at a cost of $53 million. The final group of projects rings in at $60 million, though Bissell said details of each proposal beyond 2011 “would probably require another committee to look at things again.
Pearson said he hoped voters would step up to the plate as they did in 1998.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “This is something that needs to be done. Our city leaders need to hear this presentation and support this.”