$80 million bond for Battle Ground schools on November ballot

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

Published:

 

Battle Ground Public Schools will put an $80 million bond issue on the ballot in November to replace  campuses and buildings, develop an entirely new K-8 campus and make renovations and improvements throughout the growing district.

The school board voted 4-0 last week, with Jim Pegoraro absent from the meeting, in favor of putting the bond issue up for a public vote. It will require a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

The projected local tax rate for the bond issue is 45 cents per $1,000 of current assessed value. This rate, which works out to $112.50 for a property assessed at $250,000, is subject to change based on assessed values.

“The conversation isn’t starting now,” said Monty Anderson, board president. “It started two years ago when we started the Facilities Improvement Team. There has been a lot of discussion about the need for buildings, and when to build new buildings.”

The bond money would be used to replace Glenwood Heights Primary School and Laurin Middle School, Pleasant Valley Primary School and Pleasant Valley Middle School, and Prairie High School’s 500-900 buildings. It would also go toward renovating Amboy Middle School’s gym and 300 building, and fund safety, technology, educational, infrastructure and athletic improvements throughout the district.

The district would also use money to build a new campus with K-4 and 5-8 schools in the southeast corner of the district, where there is the most overcrowding and enrollment growth. The southeast corner of the district is where the most new housing developments are coming in.

“We’re expecting, over the next 10 years, about 2,000 more students (throughout the district) based on projections,” said Sean Chavez, district spokesman.

The Glenwood campus, also in  the southeast part of the district, is one of the district’s oldest and most crowded campuses, Chavez said. He added that class size should be around 19 to 23, but some of classes in the school are in the 28 to 30 range.

“Core facilities, like the library, cafeteria and gym — all those things start getting to capacity,” Chavez said. “It’s not just about adding more classrooms.”

The plans for the bond money came from work done by the Facilities Improvement team, a 20-person group made up of district citizens and staff.

Community survey

In addition to looking at population projections for the future, the team also sent out surveys to the community to learn what it identifies as the most important issues facing the district. The most recent survey asked specifically about facilities and received 1,916 responses.

The top three concerns were “facility condition,” “general overcrowding” and “addressing growth.” The results of the survey and other information can be found at www.battlegroundps.org/fit.

“If we wait longer, it just pushes time out for existing buildings to be way over-capacitated,” Anderson said. “A lot of our buildings are over their use, and need replacements. They’re well maintained but heavily used.”

Chavez said the district also heard from the public that they’d like “a predictable tax rate.” That’s partly why the Long-Range Facilities Plan, which the board approved June 13, is a three-phase plan that goes out 18 years into the future. The bond issue up for vote in November would take the district through the first phase, which would last about six years. The district would then try to put another bond issue up for vote at that time.

“If we went for another bond in six years, it would keep the tax level with not a lot of ups and downs,” Anderson said. “The goal of the plan was to stabilize that tax need.”

Anderson is optimistic about the bond issue, and said since a lot of ideas came out of a team made up of community members, he thinks the voters will respond positively to the district’s plans.

“The momentum has been kind of building in that these are the needs,” Anderson said. “This is the plan, and if we stick to the plan, this is the right thing to do.”