There are a few important numbers featured in the long-range capital facilities plan approved by the Central Valley School District board of directors last month.
To begin with, the approach includes five construction bonds over a 25-year period beginning in 2011 and running through 2033. The first initiative will appear on the ballot as a $65.2 million proposal with another $32 million provided to the district through state matching funds.
Beyond all the projections, percentages and digits included in the extensive proposal, the number 60 may remain the most important.
The figure represents a supermajority, or the necessary margin required for a capital facilities measure to pass in any election. The last time, CVSD ran a bond – totaling $75.7 million in November 2003 – voters supported the idea to the tune of just under 54 percent. A $55.2 million bid fell three percentage points short in April of the same year.
This time around, district officials took a different approach.
Patterned after the long-range capital facilities plan utilized by the Spokane Public School District, Central Valley’s new outlook emphasizes “identifying and solving facilities issues that impact student learning,” according to Superintendent Ben Small.
The new policy includes placing a funding proposal for new and renovated schools before voters on a timeline similar to a maintenance and operations levy. Future bonds are anticipated on the ballot in 2015, 2022, 2029 and 2033.
“We don’t really have something like that now,” said Mike Bissell, chairman of the capital facilities committee. “I think it would be good to present voters with a rolling schedule.”
The first proposal will likely appear as part of an election in February or April of 2011, according to Melanie Rose, district spokeswoman. The funding would support the construction of a new elementary school in the Greenacres area at a cost of $14.85 million. Also included would be modernizations of Evergreen Middle School ($29.6 million), Ponderosa Elementary ($12.7 million), Greenacres Elementary ($14.4 million), Opportunity Elementary ($11.45 million) and Chester Elementary ($12.8 million).
In the past 10 years, residents in the district have seen their tax rate decline consistently, from $2.03 per $1,000 of assessed property value to a current rate of $1.48 per $1,000. In May, Jack Eaton of D.A. Davidson and Co. appeared at a capital facilities presentation to discuss how new construction and other factors have thinned out the tax obligation in recent years.
A winning margin for CVSD in 2011 would elevate the tax rate to $2.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
“It will raise taxes the first time but we’re hoping to keep it level after that,” Rose said. “It’s about maintaining a steady tax rate.”
Such has been the case in District 81 where the discussion for a long-range construction approach began in 2001, according to Mark Anderson, associate superintendent for school support services in the Spokane School District.
The district ran the first bond in its 25-year plan in March 2003. The $165 million initiative passed with over 67 percent of the vote and supported major renovation efforts at Shadle Park and Rogers high schools, replacement of three elementary schools and infrastructure improvements at eight other campuses.
Last March, 63 percent of voters in District 81 approved a $332 million initiative to refurbish Ferris High School and four other schools.
“It jumped up 50 cents (per $1,000) the first time,” Anderson said. “But we’ve made it a point to keep the tax rate down – no more than $1.96 per $1,000. We have predicable costs and our voters know we are good stewards of this money.”
Central Valley’s neighbors to the west have also incorporated a full-time capital facilities department, a move that Anderson said led to cost savings while providing valuable expertise among employees familiar with building conditions and requirements.
Anderson said effective communication remains a key with Spokane constituents.
“We keep folks aware of what’s going on,” he said. “We also make sure to thank the voters who support the district.”
Central Valley’s capital facilities plan features several recommendations from the 18-member committee to the school board including an emphasis on involving the community in the strategic process, convening a new committee before each ballot proposal and improving communication regarding bond-funded projects.
Bissell said that while work on the document may be finished, a successful result on the ballot hinges on getting the word out about capital facility shortfalls.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “But communication is really going to be the key.”