A formal presentation at the December NMSD school board meeting about the needs to upgrade our school facilities brought some very interesting and welcome information to our ears; much of this presentation was summarized in a recent article in the Kitsap Sun (Dec. 19). Also, if you have been reading this space in the NM Life from last month, you will already know about much of what we need with respect to school and facility upgrades that board member George Fouts wrote about. Now, we have a strong plan for taking care of a lion’s share of these issues that we are considering, and there has been some extremely positive news regarding this plan, especially when comparing it to earlier attempts to deal with the backlog of building and facility improvements.
Our current capital levy expires this year, and almost all of the repairs and improvements related to that levy have been completed. We are now looking towards a bond issue to replace the capital levy and take care of the larger needs that were partly outlined here last month. The plan we are looking seriously at will take care of all the leaky roofs in the district; it will bring us a new High School to house ALL our students adequately; it will remodel the existing High School so it becomes an adequate Middle School, solving numerous problems that our existing buildings have; it removes the oldest part of the existing Middle school completely, and converts the newer portions of it to administrative and maintenance functions for the district; it allows us to partner with community groups such as Boys and Girls Club to use the existing Middle School gym fully for non-classroom community needs. This plan fixes existing problems with Belfair Elementary, and upgrades Sand Hill Elementary with a covered play area. This plan gives us the space to adequately house our alternative school programs (Pace & Homelink). And this plan does quite a bit more that you can find out about by inquiring at the school district…
The best news, at least to me, that came out of this presentation to the school board was cost projections for the whole project. Cost of building a new high school in past years have been astronomically high; this proposal takes advantage of both lower costs due to the economic downturn, lower costs due to innovative design characteristics, and lower costs due to our district qualifying for significant matches in state funding for our construction needs—up to $10 million in matching funds possibly!
This means that we can get a considerably greater “bang for the buck” than we could in the past, and will have to spend less total than projected in earlier bonds. Since the previous bond from 1988 was paid off in 2008, and with the current capital levy expiring after this year, we will have room to propose a bond that will not have to drastically increase tax burdens in the community. Our school tax rates compare very favorably with the districts around West Sound, and when we work up financial plans for an upcoming bond, we expect that to continue to be the case.
I am very pleased that the school administration and local community participants have come up with such a far-reaching plan so far. Our board has not yet approved a plan, but we may in the very near future. We want your input into this process (contact the school district directly to find out how and to offer your thoughts), both for facility issues and financial concerns. Don’t wait, get in touch! You can expect to hear and read more about what is going on in the near future.
When we expended the capital levy funds that you voted for in the last three years, we made certain that we kept most of the funds local—hiring local contractors and vendors to do most of the work, and to keep the dollars circulating locally. We used several local firms that are run by graduates of NM High School. The architect we have been using to help us figure out how to cut costs and leverage our finances is also a NMHS graduate. We have used our local talent to help us, and they have not disappointed us. That will continue as we move forward in this next endeavor to create a continuing legacy for our children at North Mason School District.