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School board postpones vote on $34.2 million bond resolution; community invited to comment on proposal
The Snoqualmie Valley School District’s board of directors opted to postpone their vote on a $34.2 million school bond resolution until Thursday, Nov. 13, to give the public time to comment on the proposal.
The board was scheduled to vote at its Oct. 23 regular meeting on the resolution for a March 2009 bond that would purchase 18 double modular classrooms for middle and elementary schools, and make repairs and upgrades to existing school buildings throughout the district.
However, at the Oct. 23 meeting, which was packed with concerned parents and school staff, board member Caroline Loudenback moved to delay the vote.
“I’m very comfortable with the plan, and I think we’re on the right track,” Loudenback said. But “the community wants a little more voice.”
Her motion was met with loud audience applause, and the board unanimously approved the postponement.
However, the announcement that the district would take comments via its Web site, www.svsd410.org, was met with disapproval by some attendees.
“I appreciate that you’ve tabled the motion. I’m hoping that you decide to not take a vote in November, because I don’t think that gives adequate time for public engagement. I can appreciate that you will be adding this to your Web site; however, that is not public engagement,” said Nina Rivkin of Ames Lake.
Dean Snavely, Snoqualmie Middle School’s music director, agreed that the community needs another forum to discuss the proposal.
“We need to hear what each other thinks. I understand the concept for efficiency on the Web site, but I don’t think it fits the public I know,” said Snavely, who offered his school as a site for a public meeting.
On Monday, the district’s Web site featured links to online comment forms, due by 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 10, as well as a note that “a public meeting will be scheduled shortly to share more information about the bond and provide an opportunity for public feedback.”
The bond proposal currently under consideration would purchase 18 double modular classrooms at $8.48 million. It would also make infrastructure, interior, exterior and safety and security upgrades totaling about $25.7 million.
Those upgrades would include converting the Snoqualmie Middle School building to become part of Mount Si High School sometime in the future to alleviate overcrowding at the high school.
Modular classrooms would be added to the two other middle schools, Twin Falls and Chief Kanim, so they would accommodate all sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Crowded elementary schools would use modular classrooms as needed, and “program adjustments may be considered to help alleviate crowding at the K-5 level,” according to the SVSD Web site.
The current proposal is significantly smaller than the previous three school construction bonds, which were all narrowly rejected by voters in recent years.
At recent meetings, the board discussed purchasing property for future schools, but that expense was cut from this proposal to lower the bond price as voters endure the national economic crisis.
The estimated property tax increase for this $34.2 million school bond is $0.41 per $1,000 of assessed value, beginning in 2010 through 2020. By comparison, the estimated tax rate change from the March 2008 bond would have cost $0.99 per $1,000 of assessed value of property.
In formulating the proposal, the district also kept in mind a slowed enrollment growth rate in the district and a slow-down in new housing construction in the area, which have lessened the urgency to build new schools.
Board Vice President Kathryn Lerner, who was part of a facilities task force, said the plan is the best option the district has as it faces tough realities, though she acknowledged that the conversion of Snoqualmie Middle School would present challenges.
“I realize that particularly for the staff in that building, that’s a hard thing to grapple with, but at present time, on a short-term perspective, it feels like the best path to go,” Lerner said.
Though the vote was postponed, the four board members present all expressed confidence in the plan.
“The decision that we make is not going to make everybody happy in the short term, but in the long run, I think it will be for the best,” said board member Rudy Edwards.