Thursday, February 22, 2024

Facility committee waiting until after legislative session before discussing school bond

Staff Writer | February 8, 2024 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — The Boundary County School District’s facility committee is recommending the district wait to run a possible school bond until after the legislative session is over.

The decision, as well as future maintenance plans, was among the items discussed by the school board at its Jan. 31 meeting. 

With input from Vice Chair Teresa Rae and Superintendent Jan Bayer, the committee is waiting until after the legislative session before looking into running a school bond for Valley View Elementary. 

Currently, Gov. Brad Little has spoken of a draft bill soon to be proposed that includes a $1 billion state bond for school districts. 

He said it could also lower the burden for school taxes on property owners.

Due to receiving Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, the district was able to jump ahead on its 10-year maintenance plan and complete needed repairs at Mt. Hall and Naples elementary schools. Projects such as sewer line remodel, HVAC update, water heater update and window blind replacement at Mount Hall. 

Naples Elementary also was remodeled, as the front office was moved, decades-old portables were demolished, new exterior doors were replaced in Naples and Mount Hall. 

Across the district, flooring, including gyms, received updates, LED lighting were installed and fire controls were updated. 

Now it is time for the committee to create another 10-year plan for the district and rebuilding Valley View Elementary is still on the list. 

With the current laws, a bond or a facility plant levy is the only possible way to fund a new building. 

At the last bond election, additional projects were added to the school bond, such as shop additions to the BFHS/BCMS, the Mendenhall Stadium sports complex, traffic revisions at Naples Elementary, and roofing and plumbing completion at Mt. Hall Elementary. The bond failed to gather a super majority twice. 

Through the use of ESSER funds, crowdfunding and grant opportunities, nearly every project has either been completed or has a possible funding option other than taxing residents.

Due to the BFHS bond expiring in 2023, BCSD currently has no debt. Last session HB 292 passed, which provided tax relief and required the fund to go to paying off school bonds. Since BCSD currently does not have a school bond, the tax relief would go to pay off the M & O levy, which funds any extracurricular or classes not required by the state. 

Rae was cautious about running a bond in May, saying the district would miss out on any new laws and facility funding resulting from the legislative session.

“We don’t know what our cut will be,” Rae said. “We don’t have the knowledge and so, can’t write bond language for bond ballot by March 8, because we want to hear what comes out of this legislative session.”

“If we wait (to run the bond) we can use the new laws in our bond luggage for the next election,” she said. 

Last legislative session, the March election was removed. BCSD board members said it is likely the August election date will also be removed this year, so the next possible election date is Nov. 5 at the general election. 

The facility committee all advocated for more classrooms and a second gym at Valley View. They said an additional gym would alleviate scheduling conflicts with BFHS and BCMS sports and allow another indoor facility for the community to utilize. 

Mary Fioravanti, school board trustee, suggested that a future bond should only include Valley View Elementary, and a second gym could be paid for by crowdfunding at a later date. 

Architect Cory Trapp said the district can get volunteer labor, but future donations and volunteering can’t be calculated into a bond. 

Rae said if the project comes in under budget, rates will be lowered and the bond will be cheaper than budgeted. 

Bayer agreed, cautioning that it is better to plan with a higher budget and not need the funds, than scrambling for more funds as costs have increased. 

Architect Cory Trapp has worked on preliminary plans for a new Valley View. 

In his experience also designing schools in Washington, he said many of the elementary schools just across the border are being built for $40 million. 

The plans are a preliminary concept plan that focuses on the big picture, rather than explicit details, district officials said.

Tappart’s preliminary design includes a two-story school on one campus. He said a second floor allows all utilities and electricity to travel a shorter distance, cutting the costs of building a school with a larger footprint and a smaller roof. 

In Idaho, the state model is that local districts pay 20% of educational costs, and the state pays the remaining 80%. However, capital improvement projects, such as new schools are paid 100% by local taxpayers. 

BCSD requested that the state pay for the school, as provided by Idaho Code. However, when Bayer attempted such a request, there was no form to fill out.

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