JULY 29, 2010

Why we must vote yes on the School District #171 facility bond

Guest Editorial by Michelle George

   As many of you know, Joint School District #171 is preparing to run a facility bond levy. It seems like there have been way too many levies in our area recently, but I hope youíll give this one close consideration and ultimately your support. Iíve heard lots of misinformation and confusion lately, so I thought Iíd try and clarify the issue so that the voters of our community could make well-informed decisions.

   The bond would cover the costs for the following projects:

   A kitchen remodel at Orofino Elementary. The kitchen has been out of code for many years and could be shut down at any time by the health department. Also, the work space is too small for the number of students served.

   A bus safety lane just off Michigan Avenue and a new parking lot at the corner where the OES sign now sits. The old parking area on the side street would be dedicated to car drop off/pick up. Currently cars, walkers, and buses all use the same space. Drop off/pick up time is much shorter than in the past due to longer school days in the four day week, which increases congestion and potential danger. Parked cars in the drop-off lane limit visibility. The new safety lane will be just off Michigan in the open grass. A new parking lot will be developed on the corner of Michigan and I Street.

   Four classrooms added to Timberline campus. These will replace the two trailers that are now used as four classrooms. The trailers are currently rented and very expensive to heat and maintain. Even with low student numbers, Timberline Schools needs these rooms to serve the number of classes and grades provided.

   Six rooms will be added along the south side of the current high school, an increase of five classrooms and one bathroom area. The added space will allow the seventh and eighth grade to be housed together and managed as a junior high school.

   You may notice that the gyms are not included in this bond levy.

   Iím sure youíre asking yourself why we need new buildings when we just closed OJHS and the elementary schools on the hill. Here are some answers: Closing the schools saved money mainly in personnel (administrative, certified, and classified) and maintenance for large facilities. Those cost savings will remain.

   Timberline still needs the four classrooms provided by the two trailers the district is currently renting and maintaining at a high cost. The addition will replace them.

   OHS needs additional rooms if they are to house both seventh and eighth graders as a junior high. The addition would be dedicated to junior high students. I personally am a big fan of having those kids all together!

   Now is a great time to run the bond levy for a number of reasons: We need to keep the junior high grades together in Orofino; we need to get our students out of trailers in Timberline; the Federal and State governments are providing rare help with funding, but only for a limited time; building costs are low right now.

   Here is what the costs will be:

   Initial Cost                                        $3,850,000

   Less Sinking Fund Earnings                      -$640,000

   Less Levy Equalization                   -$835,000

   Net Cost to District Taxpayers                    $2,375,000

   Annual impact per $100,000 property value

   - Without Homeowners Exemption             $24.00

   - With Homeowners Exemption      $12.00

   Thatís $1-$2 per month! The cost breakdown includes savings from those government programs I had mentioned. Hereís a quick summary of how they work.

   First, we will be running a QSCB (Qualified School Construction Bond) levy. This tool was created through a Federal program that provides bonds at 0% interest to the District (authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

   The Sinking Fund is an investment tool. This bond purchase is set up so that the entire principal amount is not due for payment until 2027 (17 years), but annual payments will still be made to a sinking fund account where they will earn interest. The payments along with the interest earned can then be used to pay off the bond at its maturity.

   The Levy Equalization is a program that provides State money to Districts to pay 20% of the bond repayment costs depending on District need. Our financial advisor assures us that we have definite financial need according to State requirements. These funds reduce the amount needed from local property taxes.

   Both programs are only available for a limited time, so we need to act now if we want to take advantage of them.

   The bond levy vote will be held on Thursday, Sept. 2 from 12 noon to 9 p.m. Vote at the following locations: Cavendish-Teakean Elementary, Orofino Elementary, Orofino Junior High, Peck Elementary School, Pierce Community Center, U.S. Forest Service Building and Weippe City Hall.

   Absentee voting can be done at the District Office on Michigan Avenue, across from Glenwood Pharmacy. You must apply to vote absentee by Sept. 1 and deliver your vote by Sept. 2

   I hear time and again that, ďOur children are our future.Ē Letís all show that we mean it by going out and voting for the facilities bond levy on Sept. 2.