School board sends bond intiative to ballot

Published on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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After months of contemplation and planning the Blaine school board has taken the final step by voting to place a $32 million capital project bond initiative on the ballot next April.

At their regular meeting Monday, November 15, the board voted 4-0 to include the initiative on the April 26 ballot and approved the ballot language. Board member Susan Holmes was absent.

The money would pay for extensive school facilities upgrades, including upgrades and additions to high school science and math, middle and elementary school facilities.

It would also allow for the purchase of property in Birch Bay for a future school site. District business manager Amber Porter said the bond language allows the district to set priorities on which projects to complete first.

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.

Board president Charles Gibson said the bond initiative is the result of months of work by district staff and community members.

“There is a train-load of consideration behind this,” Gibson said.

While the entire board supported the bond being sent to voters, slight disagreements on the ballot’s wording still cropped up. Board member Todd Berge said the approved language would not convey to voters the district’s need for facility improvements.
“It’s all about how we advertise and sell it,” Berge said. 

Superintendent Ron Spanjer said the ballot language is not allowed to be promotional. Gibson said that requirement makes the district’s coming campaign for the bond all the more crucial.

“It’s very important people know what this is before they vote,” Gibson said.

Spanjer explained the district will start its information campaign for the initiative eight to 10 weeks before the election. District staff determined this to be the best time span for advertising after discussions with community members and other school districts, Spanjer said.

 Discussion of next year’s budget planning process dampened the excitement over the bond initiative. Spanjer said the district will have a difficult time keeping cuts away from the classroom in the 2011-2012 budget cycle.

“It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that we’re going to take another hit,” he said.

This year’s budget focused on maintaining as many programs and faculty as possible, Spanjer reminded board members, and warned next year’s budget might require program cuts never seen before, he said.

Spanjer said the district needs to start 2011-2012 budget considerations as early as possible since it will not know how much money the state legislature will give K-12 education until late spring or early summer.

If staff reductions are necessary, he said the district has to send out notices to affected employees by May 15.
 “Every indication is that it’s going to be worse this year,” Spanjer said.

The district will reconvene a fiscal review committee consisting of community members, district staff and school administrators.

The committee will most likely start holding meetings in December.