Pasco and Richland districts bringing bonds to voters

Jan
2013

By Elena Olmstead for TCAJOB

The Pasco and Richland school districts will ask voters Feb. 12 to approve bond measures to build new schools and update aging facilities.

Both districts are dealing with overcrowding issues at the elementary and middle school levels and officials hope the bond measures, if approved, will help to deal with those issues.

In Pasco, a $46.8 million bond measure would allow the district to build three new elementary schools and buy property for future schools.

In Richland, a $98 million bond measure would provide enough capital for the district to replace three aging elementary schools, and build a new elementary and middle school in the growing south Richland area.

The Pasco School District’s bond would be used to build three new elementary schools, relocate New Horizons High School, buy land for future school sites and upgrade some of the district’s older facilities.

Officials said that since 2005 the district has added nearly 3,000 kindergarten through eighth-grade students to its roster.

It isn’t the first time the district has appealed to residents to help expand its schools.

In 2011, the Pasco School District asked voters to approve a $59 million bond that would have been used to build a new middle school and two new elementary schools. That bond failed, said John Morgan, the Pasco School District’s assistant superintendent.

Morgan said after that bond issue failed, members of the district’s facilities task force came together to see what they could do differently to make the bond measure more appealing to citizens. The major response they had from the community was to lower the cost of the bond.

So that’s exactly what the district has done.

They’ve lowered the cost by more than $10 million and are focusing on making changes at the elementary school level. Morgan said it’s less expensive for districts to build elementary schools than middle or high schools.

They also took into account where space was most needed. Pasco current elementary schools were built to serve a maximum of 6,500 students at capacity — but in reality, more than 8,080 students are using the elementary facilities. At the middle school level, the district’s current capacity is 2,485 students, while they are serving 3,555 students. And at the high school level, the district is currently running just about at capacity, with enough space for 4,300 students while serving 4,353 students.

The district plans to change the make up of its elementary schools to help alleviate the overcrowding issues.Currently all elementary schools in the district house kindergarten through fifth grade students. With the passage of the bond, the elementary schools would add sixth grade students to their rosters. That would relieve pressure at the middle school level.

It would also allow the district to get the most bang for its buck, Morgan said. The district would then build three new elementary schools using the same designs and plans, cutting costs for architectural designs or planning. Work could simply begin on building the schools, which the district would like to have open by 2015.

The new elementary schools would then take care of crowding at the lower grade levels.

Morgan said if the bond isn’t approved, it’s likely the Pasco School District will have to look at creative scheduling to deal with overcrowding.

That might be double shifts, with half of the students attending school in the morning and early afternoon with the other half starting in the late afternoon or early evening.

The other option is multi-track, where all district students are divided into four groups, with one of the groups getting staggered quarters off. Instead of all students having the summer off, only one group would, while the others would have a fall, winter or spring break.

“Neither of these are very attractive options,” Morgan said. “But if you don’t have the space, you have to do something.”

Morgan said the district is hopeful this bond measure will pass and that people will see the value.

The proposed bond measure would raise property taxes by 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of a $100,000 home would see a tax increase of $34 a year. The tax rate would cover the cost of the $46.8 million bond and it would help the district qualify for another $38.1 million in state matching money.

“We just really want to get this bond passed,” Morgan said. “It will allow us to house our students.”

The Richland School District is asking voters to approve a $98 million bond to replace three existing elementary schools and build a new elementary school and a new middle school. Both of the new schools would be built in the district’s south Richland area, which is where most of the growth is occurring.

Rick Jansons, Richland School Board president, said the district is focusing its bond on the elementary and middle school levels because that’s where its greatest need is.

“We’ve found that we have capacity at the high school to last us another 10 years,” Jansons said.

But at the elementary school level the district is seeing major overcrowding and without elementary schools located in areas that are seeing growth, the district isn’t properly serving its population, he added.

Jansons said the district has talked about the best way to deal with its elementary school space needs and found it would be more cost effective to build new schools than to remodel the existing spaces. That’s because Lewis and Clark, Marcus Whitman and Sacajawea elementary schools were all built more than four decades ago, which poses unique issues.

For example, Jansons said, last spring Marcus Whitman Elementary School flooded when a pipe under one of the kindergarten classrooms sprang a leak. To track down the leak, construction crews had to jackhammer through the floors of two classrooms.

Work on the new schools, including the three replacement elementary schools and a new school in south Richland would start immediately upon the bond approval, Jansons said. He said the district would begin architect and engineering work in March, with plans to build all four schools at once.

“We want to work quickly to avoid inflation,” Jansons said.

He said all four elementary schools would use the same plan, and that the district would like to have those new schools online for the 2014 school year.

The proposed bond would also cover the cost of finding a new home for the district’s HomeLink program. Jansons estimates it will cost about $5 million to develop a permanent home for the program, which is currently housed in one of the Richland churches. The program serves nearly 430 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Jansons said he’s hopeful voters will approve the bond. He said the last time the district brought a bond to voters, in 2003, the district promised not to bring another bond measure to the ballot for 10 years.

That bond was used to build White Bluffs Elementary School and Enterprise Middle School.

“We were on time and under budget on those projects,” Jansons said.

Richland’s proposed bond measure would increase property taxes by 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of a $100,000 home would see a tax increase of $34 a year. The tax rate would cover the cost of the $98 million bond and would help the district qualify for $32 million in state matching money.

District officials said the current bond rate is $1.21 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. So if voters approve the new bond measure it would bring the total tax rate to $1.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2014. So the owner of a $100,000 home would pay a total $155 a year in property taxes to the school district.

Jansons said making improvements to the district is important, not just for the students who are dealing with overcrowding in their classrooms but also to the community at large.

“People locate businesses in areas where there are good schools,” Jansons said. “Good schools prompt economic develop and the area thrives and grows.”

 

 

By Elena Olmstead for TCAJOB

 

The Pasco and Richland school districts will ask voters Feb. 12 to approve bond measures to build new schools and update aging facilities.

Both districts are dealing with overcrowding issues at the elementary and middle school levels and officials hope the bond measures, if approved, will help to deal with those issues.

In Pasco, a $46.8 million bond measure would allow the district to build three new elementary schools and buy property for future schools.

In Richland, a $98 million bond measure would provide enough capital for the district to replace three aging elementary schools, and build a new elementary and middle school in the growing south Richland area.

The Pasco School District’s bond would be used to build three new elementary schools, relocate New Horizons High School, buy land for future school sites and upgrade some of the district’s older facilities.

Officials said that since 2005 the district has added nearly 3,000 kindergarten through eighth-grade students to its roster.

It isn’t the first time the district has appealed to residents to help expand its schools.

In 2011, the Pasco School District asked voters to approve a $59 million bond that would have been used to build a new middle school and two new elementary schools. That bond failed, said John Morgan, the Pasco School District’s assistant superintendent.

Morgan said after that bond issue failed, members of the district’s facilities task force came together to see what they could do differently to make the bond measure more appealing to citizens. The major response they had from the community was to lower the cost of the bond.

So that’s exactly what the district has done.

They’ve lowered the cost by more than $10 million and are focusing on making changes at the elementary school level. Morgan said it’s less expensive for districts to build elementary schools than middle or high schools.

They also took into account where space was most needed. Pasco current elementary schools were built to serve a maximum of 6,500 students at capacity — but in reality, more than 8,080 students are using the elementary facilities. At the middle school level, the district’s current capacity is 2,485 students, while they are serving 3,555 students. And at the high school level, the district is currently running just about at capacity, with enough space for 4,300 students while serving 4,353 students.

The district plans to change the make up of its elementary schools to help alleviate the overcrowding issues.Currently all elementary schools in the district house kindergarten through fifth grade students. With the passage of the bond, the elementary schools would add sixth grade students to their rosters. That would relieve pressure at the middle school level.

It would also allow the district to get the most bang for its buck, Morgan said. The district would then build three new elementary schools using the same designs and plans, cutting costs for architectural designs or planning. Work could simply begin on building the schools, which the district would like to have open by 2015.

The new elementary schools would then take care of crowding at the lower grade levels.

Morgan said if the bond isn’t approved, it’s likely the Pasco School District will have to look at creative scheduling to deal with overcrowding.

That might be double shifts, with half of the students attending school in the morning and early afternoon with the other half starting in the late afternoon or early evening.

The other option is multi-track, where all district students are divided into four groups, with one of the groups getting staggered quarters off. Instead of all students having the summer off, only one group would, while the others would have a fall, winter or spring break.

“Neither of these are very attractive options,” Morgan said. “But if you don’t have the space, you have to do something.”

Morgan said the district is hopeful this bond measure will pass and that people will see the value.

The proposed bond measure would raise property taxes by 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of a $100,000 home would see a tax increase of $34 a year. The tax rate would cover the cost of the $46.8 million bond and it would help the district qualify for another $38.1 million in state matching money.

“We just really want to get this bond passed,” Morgan said. “It will allow us to house our students.”

The Richland School District is asking voters to approve a $98 million bond to replace three existing elementary schools and build a new elementary school and a new middle school. Both of the new schools would be built in the district’s south Richland area, which is where most of the growth is occurring.

Rick Jansons, Richland School Board president, said the district is focusing its bond on the elementary and middle school levels because that’s where its greatest need is.

“We’ve found that we have capacity at the high school to last us another 10 years,” Jansons said.

But at the elementary school level the district is seeing major overcrowding and without elementary schools located in areas that are seeing growth, the district isn’t properly serving its population, he added.

Jansons said the district has talked about the best way to deal with its elementary school space needs and found it would be more cost effective to build new schools than to remodel the existing spaces. That’s because Lewis and Clark, Marcus Whitman and Sacajawea elementary schools were all built more than four decades ago, which poses unique issues.

For example, Jansons said, last spring Marcus Whitman Elementary School flooded when a pipe under one of the kindergarten classrooms sprang a leak. To track down the leak, construction crews had to jackhammer through the floors of two classrooms.

Work on the new schools, including the three replacement elementary schools and a new school in south Richland would start immediately upon the bond approval, Jansons said. He said the district would begin architect and engineering work in March, with plans to build all four schools at once.

“We want to work quickly to avoid inflation,” Jansons said.

He said all four elementary schools would use the same plan, and that the district would like to have those new schools online for the 2014 school year.

The proposed bond would also cover the cost of finding a new home for the district’s HomeLink program. Jansons estimates it will cost about $5 million to develop a permanent home for the program, which is currently housed in one of the Richland churches. The program serves nearly 430 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Jansons said he’s hopeful voters will approve the bond. He said the last time the district brought a bond to voters, in 2003, the district promised not to bring another bond measure to the ballot for 10 years.

That bond was used to build White Bluffs Elementary School and Enterprise Middle School.

“We were on time and under budget on those projects,” Jansons said.

Richland’s proposed bond measure would increase property taxes by 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of a $100,000 home would see a tax increase of $34 a year. The tax rate would cover the cost of the $98 million bond and would help the district qualify for $32 million in state matching money.

District officials said the current bond rate is $1.21 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. So if voters approve the new bond measure it would bring the total tax rate to $1.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2014. So the owner of a $100,000 home would pay a total $155 a year in property taxes to the school district.

Jansons said making improvements to the district is important, not just for the students who are dealing with overcrowding in their classrooms but also to the community at large.

“People locate businesses in areas where there are good schools,” Jansons said. “Good schools prompt economic develop and the area thrives and grows.”

 


by By Elena Olmstead for TCAJOB
Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business


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