Bond referendum decision coming
The Washington School Board will determine at its Jan. 9 meeting whether to seek a bond referendum to make repairs to the former Washington Junior High School building, now a part of the new high school.
During the November meeting, the board learned that the boiler that heats the wing is not expected to last another year. Wednesday evening, Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen said that he would like to see the district hold a bond referendum for about $900,000 to make improvements to the school’s aging infrastructure.
“Between the options we looked at, I like that option the best,” he said.
During the meeting, the board received estimates for the work needed at the former junior high. According to Carl A. Nelson and Co., ceiling, lights, window and boiler replacement would cost about $895,000. Adding a geothermal system with no upgrade to the windows, ceilings and lights is expected to cost just under $2 million.
Board member Stephanie Ellingson said that if the board decided to go with a geothermal system, she wanted the windows and ceilings replaced so the district could see energy cost savings. None of the board members reported hearing any feedback on the situation.
Jorgensen said that he had heard about another alternative. He asked the board to allow him to explore it.
“When I was at the school board convention, I talked with someone from a school district in northwest Iowa who had installed a system – it was not geothermal, but it was like it,” he said. “I have been trying to learn more about that. It is supposed to be less expensive than geothermal with a lot of the same advantages.”
He said a $2 million bond referendum was liable to meet resistance in the community.
The board discussed increasing the district’s Physical Plant Equipment Levy (PPEL) for infrastructure repairs. Jorgensen said an increase would need to be voted on. He also said if the increase is not accepted, the district would lose the PPEL funds it was getting.
“We need to do something,” board member Eric Turner said. “This is going to have to go to some kind of a vote.”
Jorgensen said that a $900,000 bond referendum would add about 25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to taxes. He also said over the last few years, the district has lowered its tax askings by about $2 and is expecting it to be lowered by another $1 next year. He said that the lower bond referendum had a better chance of being approved.
“I think people will understand the need and I think they understand we are going with a conservative way that will address the issue,” Jorgenson said. “If we have a bond issue, it would be nice to have one that would pass.”
In other business, Jorgensen said that he had met with several other area schools superintendents and law enforcement to discuss emergency preparedness in the schools. He said that the meeting had been planned prior to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
In other business, the board:
• approved allowing the existing professional development of teachers to continue;
• discussed the procedure for Jorgensen’s evaluation; and
• discussed a recent Iowa Association of School Boards convention.