Washington School Board discusses possible bond referendum for new boiler
If at first you don’t succeed.
With the boiler controlling the heat in the former junior high wing of the new Washington High School not expected to last another year, the Washington School Board discussed options. Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen discussed three possible options to replace the boiler, which was the original boiler that came with the junior high building. Two of the options involved holding a bond referendum to help pay for the upgrades.
“During our inspection this year we were told the boiler is on its last legs and they don’t expect it to pass next year’s inspection,” Jorgensen said. “Waiting is not an option.”
If the school board opts to hold a bond referendum, the vote could be held in June. The board will discuss the issue more during its Dec. 19 meeting at the Washington School District office.
The first option discussed was to install a new boiler. This would cost about $250,000.
Jorgensen said that the option is to change the wing to geothermal, which is expected to cost $1.4 million and wouldn’t include adding more energy efficient windows, doors and lights. The additional energy efficient options would raise the total of the project to $1.9 million. The second option would be to use additional capacity in the new high school wing’s geothermal system that had been reserved to be used on a new auditorium. Jorgensen said this would only be enough for the classrooms and would not be sufficient to provide environmental control in the gym or commons. A boiler on the roof would be needed for the gym and commons. Jorgensen said that he has been working with a committee that hopes to build a new auditorium on to the high school and had promised that the climate control would be available.
A third option would be to drill a new geothermal field for the entire wing. This option is expected to cost about $2.4 million and would preserve the geothermal capacity for a proposed auditorium.
Jorgensen said that a bond referendum for $1.9 million would raise the district’s tax levy by about 55 cents per $100 of taxable property for a 10-year bond or 37 cents for a 20-year bond. He said this would require a 60 percent super majority to be approved. Another option would the to raise the district’s PPEL by 34 cents to its maximum for 10 years. He said this would require a 50 percent vote and would leave the school with little contingency money.
Over the last two years, the district has lowered its tax askings by over $1.50, Jorgensen said, and expected to lower the levy another $1 next year. He also said that because the City of Washington had increased its levy, most taxpayers didn’t realize the savings.
During discussion, board member Troy Suchan discussed the project without replacing the windows, doors and lights. He said geothermal provides an energy savings and without those improvements, the savings would be nullified.
Board member Patty Roe expressed concern about holding a bond referendum, especially for a situation that required immediate attention.
“We have not had good luck with bond issues,” she said.
Suchan said that he hoped this one would be able to be approved. Jorgensen agreed, saying this time the district would be able to demonstrate a specific need.
Business manager Jeff Dieleman said that the district is coming to the end of its ability to do facility projects without additional funds.
“We can’t continue to maintain facilities on our own,” he said. ‘We need voter help.”