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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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CV puts $55 million bond issue on ballot

Voters in the Central Valley School District will be asked to open up their pocketbooks this fall.

The school district’s Board of Directors voted Monday night to place a $55.2 million bond issue before voters in November to pay for a capital projects plan recommended by district staff. The plan calls for building two new schools and remodeling three others by 2009.

“We have immediate needs, and we really need to address them,” said board member Cindy McMullen. “I’m inclined to say let’s jump off a cliff, and ask our community to agree to (an additional) 75 cents per thousand.”

A proposal for $50 million would increase property taxes from the current rate of $5.63 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation to $6.34, said Jan Hutton, the district’s financial director. That’s an extra $107 a year for the owner of a $150,000 home.

Hutton had not yet calculated an amount for $55.2 million, but said it would be just a few cents more for every $1,000 of property value.

That tax rate includes the previous $78 million construction bond passed in 1998 to replace two high schools, and the district’s maintenance and operations levy, which is up for replacement in the spring.

“The board has to consider how do we balance the district needs with the needs of our taxpayers,” said Superintendent Mike Pearson. “We have to be sensitive to … how this fits in to the area tax base.”

The bond would put Central Valley’s tax rate at the third highest of Spokane County public schools. West Valley has the highest tax rate at $7.45 per $1,000 assessed valuation. That comparison does not include any bonds or levies that might be passed by other districts in the coming year.

The new capital projects plan is separated into three phases, with the first being the November bond which would pay for a new elementary school and middle school in the east part of the district where growth has filled some buildings beyond capacity.

Liberty Lake Elementary will have nearly 800 students next year, 200 over capacity. Greenacres Elementary School is nearly full.

The school board decided in April to place portable classrooms at those schools until a new school can be built in that area. They also voted to place a portable classroom at University High School, which is over its 1,800-student capacity.

If voters approve the bond, the district will build a middle school on 23 acres it already owns adjacent to Liberty Lake Elementary. That new school would also serve as a “flex” school to house overflow from the elementary school until the elementary school that’s part of the bond request could be built, also in the eastern part of the district.

A site for the new elementary school has not yet been decided.

Voters rejected a $25 million bond to build a middle school on the same site in 2003.

Opportunity, Ponderosa and Greenacres elementary schools would be remodeled with the bond.

“For that amount, we’re getting two schools and other projects that affect every part of the district,” said board member Lynn Trantow. “I like that.”

The last two phases of the capital projects plan would be spread out over several years, and include another elementary school in the northeast, the remodel of Evergreen Middle School, the replacement of North Pines Middle School, and a third high school.

The district would have to come back to voters to approve those projects, expected to cost $102.8 million.

The state would pay about $9.1 million in matching funds for the first phase of the project, which would be collected after they’re completed.

That money would be used for other small projects, including air conditioning and parking at University Elementary, and updates to Progress and Broadway elementaries and the Summit School, a choice program housed in the former Blake Elementary building.

The district has also asked local governments to begin collecting impact fees from developers to help pay for new schools. The state will not provide any matching money for new school buildings because schools in the western half of CV’s area have classroom space, said Melanie Rose, district spokeswoman.

The state would help pay to bus students from crowded schools across the district to underutilized buildings, an option parents have consistently said they would not support.

“I think (this plan) gives us a good idea of what we need to accomplish in the next 15 to 20 years,” said board president Anne Long.

The capital projects plan suggested by district staff was in part based on the findings of a community committee charged with investigating growth in the district.

Using data from the county, the committee in May 2004 told the school board that eight of the district’s 19 neighborhood schools will surge past capacity by 2008.

Although it’s unclear where the new elementary school would be built, the district in February paid about $850,000 for 17 acres just west of Barker Road and north of Interstate 90. And a developer has offered to sell the district 12 acres nearby.

The district will need both sites, one for the elementary school under the current bond proposal, and one for the future.

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