School board considers cutting bond measure by half

School board members appeared to be in agreement that the bond will need to wait.

School board members appeared to be in agreement that Oak Harbor Intermediate School will need to wait in order to get a bond passed to replace four other elementary schools and the district’s transportation center in February 2022.

The total price tag to replace five school buildings — 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 — was estimated to cost $429 million. That is above Oak Harbor Public School’s debt capacity, school board members learned.

The school district can only issue a little over $220 million more in debt, so some school replacements must be cut.

School board members met Wednesday night for an update with the district’s architect and DA Davidson, an asset management firm that is helping board members decide the bond proposal. They did not decide which option to move forward with, although most seemed in favor of an option that includes all of the buildings except for Oak Harbor Intermediate because the others are eligible for significant match funding from the state and federal government.

That option would result in a total bond amount of just over $183.6 million. The projected 2023 tax rate would be $1.89 per $1,000 for a 20-year bond; that’s $0.18 higher than the bond that expired at the end of 2022. If board members choose a 22-year bond, the increase would be just $0.09 higher than the 2022 bond tax rate.

Oak Harbor Intermediate seems to be on the chopping block because it’s not eligible for match funding like the other buildings are. About 20 years ago, the school district used some state matching funds to renovate the school with the stipulation that it could not seek out the same matching funds for 20 years. Later, the state Legislature changed that waiting period to 30 years, which means the school is not eligible for the state match for about a decade from now.

Board President John Diamond said in an interview that he anticipated the board would decide on the bond package in late October, but the hard deadline to file the final bond proposal is Dec. 10. It needs 60% approval to pass and voter turnout must be at least 40% of the previous year’s general election turnout.

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