Cindy Sothen was hoping for a good turnout at last week’s launch of the “Vote Yes for Central Valley Schools” campaign.
As kick-off events go, most in attendance agreed it was a resounding win.
Now the 350 or so who participated in the Jan. 6 gathering at the CenterPlace Regional Events Center in Spokane Valley are hoping the momentum will carry over to a victory in a Feb. 8 bond vote that would provide funding for a new elementary school as well as renovations at five other campuses.
Sothen, now in her fifth year at Chester Elementary – one of the five schools scheduled to be modernized – said supporters of the bond are promoting the district’s goal of “providing the best learning environment possible for kids.”
“We’re not taking anything for granted with this vote,” Sothen said. “Having the enthusiasm start at this event and continue is really important.”
Ballots will be mailed Jan. 20 for the bond which requires a supermajority – or at least 60 percent of the vote – for passage. The taxpayer portion of the capital initiative is $69.6 million with an additional $32.8 million anticipated from the state for a total funding allotment of $102.4 million.
The revenue would go toward the construction of a new elementary school in the eastern portion of the district as well as extensive upgrades at Evergreen Middle School and Ponderosa, Opportunity, Greenacres and Chester elementary schools. Safety and communications systems would also be improved throughout the district.
Southen, who graduated from Central Valley High School in 1981, said Chester Elementary requires many of the infrastructure, safety and technology advancements currently lacking at other schools in the district.
“These are basic issues, like not having a heater that works,” she said.
The Central Valley School District approved a 25-year Capital Facilities Plan last June, following the counsel provided by a citizen-led committee that spent 15 months researching and gathering information on the condition of CVSD schools. Tom Dingus, who has served on the Central Valley school board since 2005, said the process of compiling the latest approach to facilities included a considerable degree of time and input.
“There was more community involvement than we’ve had before,” he said. “This was all about clear communication.”
Attendees at CenterPlace last week signed up for a variety of volunteer tasks, including doorbelling and sign waving. Those in attendance also filled out post cards addressed to voters in the district, encouraging them to support CV schools.
“It’s not just about telling people to vote yes – it’s about going out there and telling them how important this is,” said M.J. Bolt a Horizon Middle School and University High School parent who co-chaired the volunteer campaign for the last maintenance and operations levy, approved by a 62 percent margin in February 2009.
While the district has had good success on the levy front – a funding mechanism that provides revenue for fundamental expenditures like transportation, utilities, staffing and books – the road to financing new and renovated buildings has been rockier.
CVSD last won at the bond ballot in 1998 when a $78 million funding request passed, translating to the construction of two new high schools and a handful of modernized campuses. Since then, the district has seen a $25 million bond fail in 2003 and two more defeated in 2006.
The latest initiative would mean an increase of 65 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value – or a hike of around $98 on a home appraised at $150,000. The overall bond rate would move to $2.30 per $1,000, a level that would remain constant throughout the 25-year capital facilities plan.
“The tax rate is going to remain steady,” said Melanie Rose, CVSD spokeswoman.
As for those who are skeptical of voting for a tax increase to fund new and modernized buildings, Bolt said Central Valley runs the risk of falling behind other districts like Mead who have built, or are building, better schools.
“Quality schools are one of the main reasons people move to an area,” she said. “This is an issue that affects our entire community.”