School board OKs $32 million bond initiative

Published on Wed, Jul 28, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

Read More News

Voters will vote on a $32 million bond initiative on the April 2011 ballot thanks to a 5-0 vote at the Blaine school board’s regular meeting Monday night.

The board voted in favor of the Blaine school district moving forward with development of the $32 million bond.
The bond would be the district’s latest attempt at finding the money to make needed improvements to its school buildings since voters voted down a $40 million initiative in March of 2008.

The bond would cost taxpayers about 33 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. The owner of a house valued at $250,000 would pay about $84 more per year.

Bond initiatives need a supermajority of 60 percent to pass.

Superintendent Ron Spanjer made a presentation to the board detailing how the $32 million would be spent. The majority of the $32 million, approximately $28.7 million, would go toward making much needed upgrades to the high school.

Spanjer said the high school needs improvements to its heating and ventilation systems in addition to its science labs and career and technical education classrooms. The $28.7 million would pay for demolition of four wings of the high school and new construction of 89,000 square feet of building space.

The board added $2 million to the original $30 million bond initiative for eventual purchase of land in Birch Bay for an elementary school.

While this amount is more than the lowest bond amount discussed on the public survey the district released at the beginning of June, Spanjer said he believes the public will understand the district’s rationale for wanting to buy a portion of land in Birch Bay.

“If we don’t look at the property option soon, we may miss a great opportunity to purchase land in a favorable real estate environment,” Spanjer explained.

Board member Susan Holmes initially expressed caution at including that amount for the purchase of land in Birch Bay.

“We can’t build it and they will come; they have to be there and we will build it,” Holmes said in reference to the need for a school in Birch Bay.

However, Holmes eventually joined her fellow board members in supporting the additional $2 million. Board member Mike Dodd said the next year or so might be the best time for the district to purchase land in Birch Bay. While the economy is currently stagnant, waiting until the recession lessens might make the price of available land in Birch Bay rise, he explained.

Three Birch Bay residents attended the meeting to make the case for an eventual elementary school in Birch Bay. Doralee Booth, one of the co-chairs of the Birch Bay Steering Committee, said the inclusion of money on the bond initiative for purchasing land in Birch Bay would generate support from the community’s residents, Booth said.
The mere act of purchasing land would act as a promise to the community and would most likely attract more families to Birch Bay, which would benefit the school district as a whole, Booth explained.

An elementary school in Birch Bay would also reduce the commute of numerous parents who work in Birch Bay but have to bring their children to Blaine’s schools, Booth explained.

With the school board’s approval, Spanjer said the district will work in the coming months to develop a formal bond initiative. Spanjer said a formal initiative would be available for discussion and approval in the fall.