In presenting the case for a bond measure on the Feb. 13 ballot, Battle Ground Public Schools officials make good use of an automobile analogy.
If you have a 20-year-old car, you start to wonder about the price of maintenance and repair, eventually realizing that replacement would be more cost-effective. The same can be said about a 50- or 60-year-old school; add in the fact that you are now metaphorically squeezing eight people into your four-seater, and it might be time for an upgrade.
Battle Ground officials are seeking passage of a $224.8 million bond that would, in addition to other projects, provide replacements for Glenwood Heights and Pleasant Valley elementary schools, along with Laurin and Pleasant Valley middle schools. The bond, which would be paid out over about 20 years, also would fund reconstruction of 40 percent of the Prairie High School campus.
The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that Battle Ground voters support the measure, which requires a supermajority of 60 percent. Improved learning environments and safety measures pay long-term dividends, and Battle Ground has not passed a bond request since 2005.
As always, this is merely a recommendation; The Columbian trusts that voters will study the issues before casting an informed ballot. Video of an editorial board meeting with district officials is at https://tinyurl.com/ycvhp2xw, while Voters’ Pamphlet information can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y8thvxzw. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed out today and must be returned or postmarked by Feb. 13.
Returning to the car analogy, Glenwood Heights elementary is the DeSoto of Battle Ground schools. Built in 1956 to house 480 students, it now has an enrollment of 800. Its shared campus with Laurin Middle School has 42 inside classrooms and 33 classrooms in portable structures. That represents the district’s sharp inequity, with some students in facilities such as Laurin that have outgrown their usefulness while others are in superior newer structures built with the 2005 bond proceeds.
The question is whether Battle Ground officials have overextended themselves with the request. In November 2016, administrators placed an $80 million bond before voters, and the 55.4 percent approval did not meet the 60 percent threshold. Despite the larger request this time around, officials estimate that the bond will increase school taxes by about 4 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value. Meanwhile, the levy swap engineered by the Legislature last year is expected to result in a net tax reduction for residents in the Battle Ground district.
For some critics, the district also must demonstrate accountability after the removal of a superintendent resulted in a $400,000 payout in 2013. “My hope is that we are transparent,” Superintendent Mark Ross told the editorial board. “I understand it takes a while to rebuild trust.”
In addition to Battle Ground, the Evergreen and La Center districts also have bond requests on the Feb. 13 ballot. The Columbian has editorially supported the Evergreen request. The editorial board did not review the La Center request, but information can be found at Columbian.com and at the Clark County Elections website.
We also encourage voters to visit the schools that officials say warrant replacement. After all, when a district is asking for taxpayer investment, it can’t hurt to kick a tire or two.