In the same month that will feature the start of a new baseball season, the East Valley School District will step up to the plate in hopes of passing a $33.75 million request for capital facilities.
The bond will appear on the April 26 ballot and include a noteworthy state match of $32.5 million if it manages to earn a supermajority, or at least 60 percent of the vote. EVSD Superintendent John Glenewinkel said the significant total of state dollars – typically matches are a much smaller percentage of the amount generated by taxpayers – have to do with the district’s plan to reconfigure campuses from an elementary school/grade school format to schools that house students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
“It makes an amazing difference in the overall money,” Glenewinkel said. “Under the old plan, we would wind up with two middle schools that are the wrong size and cut the state match by a third or more.”
The last time EVSD appeared on the ballot for a capital facilities vote was in February 2009 when only 52 percent of the electorate confirmed support for a $34.5 initiative. A vote in March 2008 for $33 million garnered 55.4 percent while a follow-up ballot that May fared better, but still fell short at 56.6 percent.
After the vote nearly two years ago, EVSD Board Member Kerri Lunstroth encountered residents of the district who were under the impression that the funding had been approved based on the issue earning over 50 percent of the ballot – the simple majority required for levies that cover maintenance and other day-to-day costs.
Others simply didn’t cast a ballot.
“People will tell me they didn’t vote because they thought it would pass without much of a problem,” Lunstroth said.
Ruth Gifford is one district resident who is doing her part to get the word out before ballots are mailed out in early April. Gifford serves as chairperson of a group called Citizens for East Valley which will lead the pro-bond campaign.
According to Gifford, the committee was organized shortly after the board approved the reconfiguration plan just over a month ago. Yard signs have been ordered this week and promotional flyers will be mailed to voters from the last election soon.
“We hope to do a better job of telling people why and answering any questions they might have,” Gifford said. “Hopefully they can see the benefit of this.”
The funds would cover refurbishing efforts at each of the district’s schools, other than Mountain View Middle School where only the gymnasium would remain functional. New gyms would be added at East Farms, Trentwood, Otis Orchards and Trent elementary schools. Each of those four campuses would transition to K-8 while East Valley Middle School would house the district’s administrative offices and an enrichment center for grades 6-8. Extensive improvements in infrastructure and technology would also be part of the bond.
Glenewinkel acknowledged that those not in favor of reconfiguration “will be a factor in the vote.” The superintendent and the board were greeted by vigorous opposition at a Jan. 4 meeting at district administrative offices, although a subsequent gathering found reconfiguration supporters turning out to provide some balance.
Art Tupper, a longtime East Valley resident and reconfiguration opponent, has indicated that he will put up signs encouraging people to vote against a capital bond.
“I’ll work every day against this,” Tupper said at the Jan. 4 meeting.
Glenewinkel has countered by pointing out that the project would add 40 new classrooms while reducing many of the structural inefficiencies currently found in the district. At Mountain View, a building constructed for 700 students, the enrollment is only 330.
For taxpayers, the bond would mean an increase of around 86 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The district has since retired the debt from its last capital facilities campaign, approved by voters in 1996. If passed in April, the new tax rate would be $4.39 per $1,000. In 1999, East
Valley home owners were paying $6.36 per $1,000.