District placing construction levy on April special election

By Oliver Lazenby

The Blaine school district will send a $12 million, six-year levy to voters in April to rebuild, repair and replace facilities throughout the school district.

Blaine school board commissioners approved a resolution to send the capital projects levy to voters at a January 22 meeting. Residents will vote on the levy in a special election on April 24. The levy only requires a 50 percent voter approval to pass, unlike bonds, which require 60 percent approval.

The money will go toward projects identified by a facilities committee that the district appointed in September 2017. The committee was tasked with identifying projects to accomplish in the next five years so that short-term projects are “not allowed to accumulate and create a greater financial challenge in the future.”

The timeline should allow the district to begin construction on a new high school grandstand – one of the first projects in the levy – by spring 2019. The April vote will give the district time to complete plans, go to bid and order materials before the spring, said district finance and operations director Amber Porter.

The district will explain the capital levy and what the money will be used for soon, giving it about three months of outreach before the election.

“It is not a long time but it can certainly be done,” Porter said.

Cost

Starting in 2019, the levy will cost taxpayers an estimated 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $127.50 for a house valued at $250,000.

If the levy passes, property taxes for education would stay roughly even between 2018 and 2019, as the school district’s maintenance and operations levy will drop by about 45 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, Porter said.

State education taxes will jump this year due to the legislature’s decision to hike the state education levy to comply with the McCleary devision. [See ‘Taxpayers’ on page 1 for more information.]

Property owners will get their tax bills by mail in mid-to-late February for payments due April 30.

Projects

With levy money, the district will focus on projects it has already committed to, including replacing or updating the existing grandstand structure and field surface at the high school, and purchasing property for a future Birch Bay school.

A full list of projects the levy will fund, with price estimates, is online at
bit.ly/2mcWVxJ. They include:

• Main gym complex: new roofing, new paint, flooring and heating upgrades

• Performing arts center: roofing; gutters; paint; stage, lighting, sound and restroom upgrades

• Middle school: cafeteria flooring, gym exterior patching and painting, gym roof replacement and heating upgrades

• Primary school: rooftop heating unit replacement

• District-wide: work to parking lots, drains lighting, sidewalks, security cameras, electronic locks, new storage facility and Point Roberts heating units

• Vocational building: painting, ceiling tile, carpeting and restroom upgrades

• Pipeline fields complex: irrigation systems, field renovations, softball dugouts, pole building improvements and equipment storage

• Raise and replace student data facility

The levy would also fund technology and equipment for vocational classes. The district estimates that the work will cost $11 million. The $12 million levy will leave a buffer for contingency costst, Porter said.

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