Battle Ground school board puts bond on ballot

Election on Feb. 13; proposal includes building new schools

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Battle Ground school district voters will, for the second time in as many years, have a chance to cast their vote for a school bond that would build new schools and replace aging facilities.

The Battle Ground Public Schools board voted unanimously Monday to send a 21-year, $224,895,000 bond to a special election on February 13 next year.

The proposal includes the construction of a new primary and middle school, replacing Glenwood Heights Elementary School, Laurin Middle School and both Pleasant Valley Schools, replacing some Prairie High School buildings and making other safety and technology improvements across the district.

District estimates suggest taxpayers’ school contributions — including local and state levies and bonds — could go from this year’s $6.02 per $1,000 in assessed property value to $6.06 when collection begins in 2019, School Finance Director Meagan Hayden said.

That also reflects the state levy swap created under this year’s McCleary budget decision, which goes into effect in 2019. That will increase the state schools levy from $1.98 to $2.90 per thousand and is expected to decrease the Battle Ground district’s local levy from this year’s $3.31 to $1.50 per thousand.

The district last went out for a bond in November 2016, that time for $80 million — just over a third of the amount the district is now requesting. The bond failed, receiving 55.43 percent of the 32,386 votes cast. Bonds require 60 percent approval to pass.

Higher construction costs, additional projects and needed extra square feet contributed to the higher amount, district officials said.

The district’s bond was developed with input from the Facilities Improvement Team, a volunteer group of district staff and district residents. Several members of the Facilities Improvement Team spoke in favor of the resolution.

Roger Jarvis acknowledged it may be a hard sell to voters, but said the district needs to “hit the pavement hard” to educate voters on the district’s needs.

“We need to begin on this,” he said. “If we wait longer, the more time, the more costs go up.”

School board candidate Mitch Taylor, who is running to replace departing board director Jim Pegoraro, said it’s going to be a tough road to adopt the bond measure, but added, “I support the bond 100 percent.”

His opponent, Troy McCoy, asked if it’s feasible to replace aging schools without building a new one. Superintendent Mark Ross noted that project, if approved, would help support long-term growth in the district.

School board member Stephanie McClintock said she was weighing the district’s needs with the needs of taxpayers, but said ultimately, “our needs are our needs” before voting to support the resolution.

“The best thing we can do is educate the voters, then it’s up to them,” McClintock said.

Update: Meagan Hayden is Battle Ground Public Schools’ school finance director. A previous version of this story misspelled her name.