School board considers $45 million bond

Published on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 by Ian Ferguson

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The Blaine school district board of directors will consider putting a $45 million bond on the ballot in February 2015. The bond would pay for capital improvements – primarily for the aging high school – and maintenance for district facilities.

A group of 16 staff members, parents and community members known as the Facility Task Force recommended the bond when they released their report on infrastructure upgrades in May. The task force was established in 2013 to study and prioritize facility needs and draft a plan to fund the projects. Chief among those projects is a full-scale remodel of the Blaine High School campus that would cost close to $38 million.

An assessment of the high school showed an aging structure in urgent need of utility and infrastructure upgrades. In addition, state mandates such as the 24-credit requirement for seniors beginning with the class of 2019 and initiatives that require the integration of technology into the classroom mean the structure is becoming more outdated every year.

“We’re going to have to offer more courses and the classrooms will have to be more complex,” superintendent Ron Spanjer said. “It’s time to get this high school updated.”

The group also recommended an addition of eight classrooms to the primary school to accommodate full-time kindergarten. State funding for the program could become available as soon as the 2015/16 school year, but the addition would probably not be completed until the 2016/17 school year. State funding will cover staffing for full-time kindergarten, but not infrastructure requirements. The addition would cost an estimated $4 million.

Campus-wide security upgrades, many of which are now required by state code, would cost an estimated $900,000. The group stated that these safety issues should be addressed as soon as possible.

Other items include overhead doors for the primary school covered play area ($210,000) and maintenance projects ($1.8 million) to be completed over a five-year period. The list includes roof replacements, carpeting, paving, installation of fiber-optic cable campus-wide, playground, furniture and technology upgrades,  a cafeteria expansion and a remodel of the northern portion of the elementary school. 

Along with the list of priority needs, the task force submitted a timeline for bonding and project completion. If the school board goes along with the recommendations, the $45 million bond would appear before voters in the school district February 2015. The bond would be issued over three years at $15 million each year, and would be repaid over 20 years. It would require voter approval of at least 60 percent to pass.

The most recent district bond was a $3 million bond used to rebuild the high school science building; it will be paid off in 2016. Projected tax rates that would be needed to service the three $15 million bonds begin at $1.08 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2015 and taper to $0.20 by 2036.

“While we can’t control the rate completely, we can control the amount we’re trying to collect each year, and our goal is to keep the rate fairly constant and not layer on top of existing debt,” Spanjer said.

If the proposed bond is approved in February, campus repairs and security upgrades would begin in the summer of 2015, as would the pre-construction site work for the high school remodel. Construction at the high school would be complete by the summer of 2018 while the modernization of the high school would be finished in August 2019.

The agenda for the school board’s next meeting on Monday, June 23 includes action for the bond. Spanjer said the board is seeking community input on the matter. A link to the complete report from the Facility Task Force, as well as the email address and phone number to submit comments and concerns, can be found on the school district website at blainesd.org.