Among mixed reviews from the public Monday evening, the Longview School Board selected one final facilities option for November’s ballot.
The $121 million facilities plan would involve districtwide safety and security upgrades, the replacement of three elementaries and it would earmark $12 million for upgrades to the district’s special learning preschool at Broadway Learning Center. It would be the largest bond in district history if approved.
The motion was unanimously approved by board members Jennifer Leach, C.J. Nickerson, Richard Lord and Barb Westrick. Board member J.D. Rossetti’s absence was excused.
The approval drew a couple of weary claps from the audience of about 20 community members, happy to see this stage of the process completed.
“There’s going to be people (mad) at you anyway, so you might as well go for something here and let the rocks fall where they fall,” said Ray Van Tongeren, a facilities committee member, during the public comment period.
The board still has to officially adopt an official bond resolution, which is planned for the next regular meeting, scheduled May 8.
According to district estimates, a $100 million bond would have cost property owners an additional $0.77 per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $154 a year for 21 years for the owner of a $200,000 house. A $120 million bond would cost that same homeowner $0.93 per $1,000, or $186 annually for 21 years.
“I’ve been around for quite a bit of this process, and I think the process has been a really good one,” said Lower Columbia School Gardens director Ian Thompson. “And I feel like you guys have arrived at some good, solid decisions. We all feel the heartache of not being able to do all the things we want to do in this round. ... This is a great solid place to start.”
The decision still leaves the question of what to do with the district’s special education preschool open-ended.
Richard Lord’s motion for the measure specifically stated that the district would “earmark” $12.5 million “for our district’s special education preschool program with consideration given to the continuing district partnership with Head Start.”
The motion also included $2.75 million for district wide safety and security projects, $39 million for the replacement of Mint Valley Elementary, $38.6 million for the replacement of Northlake Elementary and $28.75 for the replacement of Olympic Elementary.
Debate is not over on whether or not to split Longview’s preschool up from the Head Start program, which occupies part of the same building.
“The reason I provided a second is we really need to look out for our early learning population because they’re part of our district, and they’re part of the package,” Leach said.
Lord agreed, and said that the day-to-day operations of the special education preschool impressed him.
“It is an expensive price tag, but I think that is a vital population that we need to take care of,” Lord said. “I think it costs what it costs.”