This story has been revised from its original online version.

The Kelso School District has learned it will get an additional $18 million in state matching funds for its bond project, but the extra money will not lower property taxes or restore the district’s original plan to replace three schools, officials said Tuesday.

Huntington Middle School and Butler Acres Elementary School will receive a combined $17.9 million in additional matching funds from the state, reported Scott Westlund, chief financial and operations officer.

The money can only be used on those projects, Westlund said, and the district must spend the same amount of local bond money to receive the state matching funds. Officials cautioned that the new figures are projections and could still change.

Westlund said the additional funds are partially due to a 2 percent increase in the amount the state matches per square foot of construction.

Another reason for the increase is that Huntington Middle School became eligible for more matching money as designs for renovations progressed. It’s now eligible for an additional $10.5 million in matching money. Similarly, Butler Acres was originally not eligible at all, and the project will now qualify for $7.4 million in matching funds.

The $96.6 million bond project is building a replacement for Wallace Elementary School and will replace Beacon Hill and Catlin elementaries with a new 600-student school in Lexington. It also includes a variety of upgrades around the district and its facilities.

The additional state matching money will make it possible to do more renovation at Huntington and Butler Acres. However, the district cannot lower the bond amount or it would lose matching funds under the complex formula the state uses to dish out school construction money. The bond is financed through local property taxes.

Under the voter-approved bond plan, the district originally intended to also replace Beacon Hill. It abandoned that plan when construction costs for Wallace soared, largely due to poor soils and the need for a more stout foundation. Instead, the Lexington school was expanded.

Work on the new Lexington and Wallace Elementary Schools is going well, representatives from Educational School District 112’s Construction Services Group told the Kelso School Board on Monday night.

Phil Iverson, regional project leader with the Construction Services Group, said the group has been “working diligently” on the projects.

“There have been a few peaks and valleys, but we’re getting close,” Iverson told the board.

In other developments from the meeting:

  • Enrollment numbers: Kelso’s preliminary enrollment numbers are 4,832 students, 31 students fewer than projected in the 2019-2020 budget, Westlund said. Westlund said the district should see a slight enrollment bump in October and November. (Enrollment is important because it is the district’s basis for state funding.)
  • Superintendent evaluation: The board also released Superintendent Mary Beth Tack’s evaluation. Overall, the new superintendent rated “proficient” and “distinguished” in her first year.
  • Stadium sound system: The board awarded a bid for the stadium sound system to Three Rivers Audio Visual for $49,000. Westlund said the district’s estimated cost was $40,000. The next lowest bid was $132,000. Those funds will come from the bond.
  • First readings: The board heard first readings of four policies on emergencies, unmanned aircraft systems and model aircraft, the system of funds and accounts and property and data and records management.
  • Second readings: The board passed two policies concerning restraint and isolation of students and nutrition, health and physical fitness.

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