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Central Valley delays decision on bond

Despite being inundated by rising enrollment in its elementary classrooms, Central Valley School District will not ask voters this spring to reconsider a failed $55.2 million school construction bond.

The bond, which narrowly failed two weeks ago, could have been presented to voters for a do-over on May 16, but the district’s school board concluded at its Monday night meeting that there just wasn’t enough time to secure votes between now and election day. Mail ballots likely would have begun reaching voters toward the end of April.

“I think four weeks is not enough time to change people’s minds,” said Tom Dingus, school board member.

Instead, the board will decide before the end of the school year whether to pursue a fall election, a delay not taken lightly because of rising construction costs and the burden of another year of overcrowding on Central Valley’s east end. New home construction is booming on that end of the district, where more than 2,000 building lots are planned between Spokane Valley’s Sullivan Avenue and Liberty Lake.

Officials had hoped to open a new elementary school for classes by fall 2007. Delaying the vote almost certainly pushed a new school opening back to fall 2008. Busing students to the older buildings on the district’s far west end, where enrollments are declining, is the most likely solution to the Central Valley’s east-end growing pains.

If approved, the bond would have paid to build both a new elementary school and a middle school in Liberty Lake. It also would have paid for remodeling at three other school buildings throughout the district. Six other school buildings would have received wiring for technology and other improvements. The measure would have cost homeowners 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

To pass, the construction bond needed 60 percent approval, but received only 57 percent. Before deciding to postpone a re-vote, the school board heard from the get-out-the-vote volunteers, who said their campaign for the March 14 balloting was the largest ever for a Central Valley school election.

Dennis Olson, chairman of Kids First, the campaign committee for Central Valley schools, said 400 volunteers worked to pass the bond and a replacement levy to fund school programs and operations. The group placed 900 campaign signs on lawns, spoke to anyone who would listen and raised a $20,000 war chest. Though the bond failed, the levy passed.

Talk about growing pains wasn’t limited to the construction bond. The school board unanimously voted to ask the governments of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and Spokane County to start collecting a fee on newly constructed homes to offset the impacts of new families moving into the school district. Central Valley would like to see $1,410 charged at the building permit counter for every new house in the district. The fee would have to be collected by the local governments, who don’t have to abide by the school district’s request. Liberty Lake officials have said they’re ready to talk, but Spokane County won’t discuss the matter unless Central Valley requests a conversation. Spokane Valley officials say they won’t be bringing the subject up sooner than next fall.