The Battle Ground Public Schools Board of Directors decided unanimously on Monday to put a bond before voters that would replace aging and deteriorating schools, help alleviate overcrowding, and improve classrooms and safety at campuses across the district. The bond will be on the February 13, 2018 special election ballot and requires approval by a 60 percent supermajority to pass. See the BGPS Bond Fact Sheet, or visit www.battlegroundps.org/bond for more details.
“As your elected representatives, we have spent countless hours visiting with business, community and district leaders to separate the wants from the needs," said Monty Anderson, president of Battle Ground's Board of Directors. "I believe this bond is the first of the needs as our community grows, now it is up to the voters."
If approved, the bond projects would be eligible for up to $61.6 million in matching funds from the state for construction assistance. The local cost of the bond is $224.9 million, and collections would begin in 2019. It is estimated that property owners in the district will see a decrease in their total schools tax rate in 2019 compared to what they pay in 2017. It is projected that property owners will pay two cents less per $1,000 of assessed property value for all school taxes in 2019 than in 2017.
The decrease in the total property tax rate for schools is attributed to state changes in funding under the McCleary decision. In 2019, a school levy swap will see the Battle Ground Schools local levy rate drop to $1.50 (less than half of 2017), while the state schools levy rate is projected to be $2.90. The 2019 rate for the new and existing bonds is projected to be $1.60. The district worked with local agencies to estimate tax rates.
The bond would fund the replacement of Glenwood Heights Primary and Laurin Middle schools and Pleasant Valley Primary and Middle schools and the construction of a new primary and middle school campus in the southeast corner of the district. The new schools would be built on land that the district purchased last year on the west side of Northeast 152nd Avenue between 99th and 119th streets. The bond also would fund the replacement of the 500 to 900 buildings at Prairie High School and improvements to the Amboy Middle School 300 building and gymnasium.
The bond proposal also includes the development of an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program site on land that the district owns on the south side of Northeast 199th Street just east of 72nd Avenue. The project could include the construction of a multipurpose building and the installation of modular buildings to house CAM Academy, which is currently located in a building that the district leases.
In addition, safety and security and access to technology would be improved at schools across the district, classrooms would be modernized for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and skilled jobs courses in middle and high schools, and student recreation would be enhanced at several schools, including Maple Grove, Yacolt Primary, Amboy Middle, Prairie High School and District Stadium.
As the board considered which highest priority projects to include in the bond resolution, it turned to the district's volunteer Facilities Improvement Team for guidance. The team and the board conducted several workshops beginning in July to consider the district's needs and what has changed since the district put a bond proposal before voters in November 2016. Since that time, enrollment has increased, buildings have required additional maintenance, and construction costs have risen in the region.
"This bond covers the needs of the district," said Roger Jarvis, a member of the volunteer Facilities Improvement Team. "Security and safety are a big concern. They are big in my book. You can see the growth happening. Our team decided overwhelmingly that we should put the whole bond before voters."
To help accommodate growth, the board has installed portables and revoked boundary exceptions at the four schools that will be replaced if the bond passes. At Glenwood Heights and Laurin Middle School, where 42 percent of the schools' classrooms are in portables, the board has designated district funds to begin work connecting the schools to the public sewer this spring. The schools' septic systems have reached capacity use, and the district cannot place additional portables on the campus without the public sewer connection.
In their discussions, school board and Facilities Improvement Team members alike noted several challenges at the schools selected for replacement: