Options mulled to reduce $429 million school project

A bond measure is planned for the February ballot.

The price tag to build five new elementary schools and a transportation center in Oak Harbor could cost over $429 million but making changes to the project list could result in a much lower amount.

Voters will likely get a chance to weigh in on the large-scale project in February, when Oak Harbor school officials plan to place a bond measure on the ballot. Depending on what ends up on the project list, the owner of a $300,000 house could see annual property taxes of $315 to $927.

Oak Harbor School Board members received an update about costs at a meeting Monday night to discuss options with Philip Reidel from NAC Architecture.

The school district has plans to rebuild Crescent Harbor, Oak Harbor and Olympic View elementary schools; Oak Harbor Intermediate School; the Hand-in-Hand/Home Connection Early Learning Center; and the transportation center.

Oak Harbor Elementary would move to the school district’s property at Fort Nugent Park, but the historic brick building at the current site would remain. Olympic View Elementary would be built where Oak Harbor Elementary sits. The transportation center would move to where Olympic View Elementary currently sits on Regatta Drive. The other schools would be built in the same places as they are now.

It would cost $429 million to rebuild all six buildings. Local taxpayers would be on the hook for a $289 million bond to be voted on in February 2022. It would cost voters $3.09 per $1,000 assessed value of properties each year on a 20-year bond, or the rate would fall to $2.94 in a 22-year bond.

Reidel said three sources for matching funds could offset costs.

The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction would contribute an estimated $10.5 million if the school district rebuilt all of the schools. The federal Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation of the Department of Defense, formerly the Office of Economic Adjustment, could contribute just over $107.7 million because two of the schools sit on federal property. The state would match $22.7 million for the transportation center because Oak Harbor also services Coupeville’s school buses.

Reidel discussed how changing the project list could decrease the overall cost but also mean the loss of grant funds.

If the school district decides to cut the new transportation center, the bond would decrease to $268 million and overall project cost would fall to $385 million, but the school district would lose state matching funds.

Another option would remove both the transportation center and Olympic View Elementary from the project list. The bond would fall to $197 million and the overall cost to just over $311 million, but the school district would lose all of the state matching funds for the transportation center and $3.5 million of the matching funds from the state Office of Superintendent and Public Instruction.

Another way to save money, Reidel said, would be to defer Oak Harbor Intermediate School from the bond because it is not yet eligible for matching funds from the state because of its age. The local bond would be $183 million and the total project cost would be $344.6 million. Local funding would make up 53% of the cost for the entire program as opposed to the previous three options which would require taxpayers to support more than 60% of the total project cost.

Or school board members could cross both the transportation center and Oak Harbor Intermediate School off the project list and the bond would be $162.8 million and the total program cost would be $280.5 million.

The smallest bond Reidel presented calls for the removal of Oak Harbor Intermediate, Olympic View Elementary and the transportation center from the project list. Taxpayers would be asked to approve a $92 million bond to rebuild Hand-in-Hand/HomeConnection, and Crescent Harbor and Oak Harbor elementary schools. The projected bond tax rate would be $1.11 per $1,000 assessed value a year for a 20-year bond, or $1.05 per $1,000 for a 22-year bond.

Reidel said the cost estimates would be refined further and board members would receive an update at a future meeting. The bond counsel is scheduled to present at the Sept. 27 meeting.