The Longview community is most likely to support a $115-130 million bond that builds two new elementary schools and upgrades safety and security in the district, based on an anecdotal summary of responses from several public bond forum sessions held in January and February.
This summary also suggests that the bond package will need to include renovations to Memorial Stadium to garner enough support to pass.
The district hosted three community forums, five staff forums and four parent-teacher organization discussions in preparation for a November bond election. (Additional staff and PTO forums are scheduled through March.) The sessions are intended to give the school board a sense of what the voters think should be included in a bond before it votes on a final bond plan, and attendees were asked to respond to the project proposals put forward by the Facility Advisory Committee last fall.
“It provides me with some anchor to give the board … to assure they are armed with all they need to make the best decision possible,” Superintendent Dan Zorn said after a Longview School Board meeting Wednesday night.
The summary of responses shares the general themes of forums, but it is “not necessarily representative” of all voters, Zorn said. On average, nine people attended per session, and no meeting was attended by more than 21 participants.
The “trends” in responses suggest the most supported projects — those backed by a “critical mass” of participants — are a Mint Valley school replacement, a second new elementary school and safety and security upgrades districtwide, Zorn said.
“What there was not consensus on by any stretch was (a new school at) Northlake or Olympic,” Zorn told the board. “I would venture to say it was split right down the middle.”
Projects that garnered support of about half the attendees included Memorial Stadium upgrades and high school trades programs upgrades.
Also in this category was money earmarked for big-ticket maintenance projects throughout the district.
Maintenance projects and safety and security are two ways the district can “spread the joy” to benefit students districtwide, Zorn said.
That’s something the forum attendees said will be important for gaining voters’ support.
Many forum participants also noted that renovating Memorial Stadium wasn’t their top priority personally, but it needed to be included if the bond were to pass, Zorn said.
Longview resident Jason McClung said he and many of his friends voted no on the last bond because it didn’t include athletic improvements.
Voters will also need specific examples of maintenance and safety and security projects, clear tax implications, visuals and clear descriptions of why the projects are needed and an accurate cost estimate before they will support a bond measure, according to the forum responses.
To help meet the last requirement, the school board is considering asking the district to perform a soil study before the bond goes to voters. Poor soil conditions caused the prices of other construction projects in this region, including the Kelso School District’s construction projects and the Oregon Way-Industrial Way interchange project, to spike dramatically and unexpectedly.
The board is expected to vote on the early soil study at its next meeting.
As for overall price of the bond, very few forum attendees said they would support a $100 million bond measure, but the responses were almost evenly split on whether the final price of the projects should equal $115 or $130 million, Zorn said.
A $115 million bond would cost taxpayers $184 more annually on a $200,000 home, while a $130 million bond would cost $208 more annually.
The school board is slated to determine a final draft for the bond package by March 19. After a public hearing process, the board will vote to approve the bond plan on April 8.