Chelan School District seeks a $75.5 million bond from community

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by Richard Uhlhorn

“It’s a big thing for me,” stated Barry DePaoli, superintendent of the Lake Chelan School District. “We’ve been working on this for about one and a half years. It’s a 30 year plan and so far most people are supportive.”

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Barry DePaoli, Chelan School Superintendent is hosting a number of informational meetings on the District’s proposed $75.5 million dollar bond issue that will be voted on by April 23, 2019

DePaoli was describing the School District’s proposed $75.5 million dollar bond issue for capital projects including the construction of a new High School on its property adjacent to Mountain Goat Field up by Wal-Mart.

Coupled with the $1.50 per thousand EP & O Levy (M&O) the proposed bond issue, if passed, would add
$1.39 per thousand to the property tax collections in the District for a total of $2.89 per thousand.

In a regional comparison, this bond issue coupled with the replacement levy amount is the second lowest. “We generate a lot of (property tax) income,” said DePaoli. As an example, Cashmere residents are paying $5.34 per thousand and Cascade School District which is similar to Chelan are paying $3.22 per thousand on a new $96 million bond issue. Manson residents, who just past a $20 million bond issue, will be paying $2.30 per thousand. “Regionally we are not out of line here.”

For home owners of property worth $300,000, $350,000 and $400,000 , they would be paying $450, $525 or $600 for the schools. This is less than what property owners paid in 2008 ($3.10/thousand).

If this bond issue is approved on April 23rd (ballots will be in the mail on April 5), 2019, homeowners would begin paying for the bond in 2020.

Property owners are already feeling the taxation crunch, so why would the Lake Chelan School District run this bond issue at a time when tax payers are feeling overtaxed as it is?

According to DePaoli, the two campuses are overcrowded (1,450 students), the buildings are in need of serious work, the elementary and high school are both adjacent to a state highway which is creating severe daily traffic congestion with middle school parents picking up students, buses and high school drivers trying to access the state highway.

According to the District, this is the right time to run this bond issue because the bond market is favorable and the District is currently debt free. “I’d rather invest my money in kids on schools we can’t maintain anymore,” said DePaoli. “I expect to get some hard questions from our property owner,” added DePaoli.

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School Superintendent Barry DePaoli gave a presentation to residents of the District on February 28 and will be giving more informational presentation on the District’s proposed Bond Issue throughout the month of March.

Those questions are being answered at a series of Monday informational events as follows:

  • Monday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m., and March 18 (En Espanol), and March 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce. These three informational presentations include coffee and fudge.
  • On Monday, March 11 at 6 p.m., there will be a Tamale Feed and Community Forum on the bond issue at the Chelan High School Performing Arts Center and Commons.

If passed the $75.5 million will be used to:

  1. Build a new High School: grades 9 – 12…………………………………….$59 million
    The School District already owns the property it plans on building the proposed high school. The new high school is intended to meet both needed space requirements for the next 30 to 40 years and the future academic needs of the students which will include skilled labor and technical training classrooms

 The plan also includes consolidating all athletic venues (field, gyms, tennis and track facilities to eliminate the need to drive or bus students.

  1. Modernize & reconfigure Morgan Owings Elementary & the Middle/High School………………………………………………………………………………………$9 million

The plan intends to modernize and upgrade the current classrooms at MOE, add a multipurpose gym to the backside of the current building, replace the aging roof and upgrade the HVAC system and alleviate traffic congestion and address student safety concerns. This plan will move Pre-K students out of the basement of the Special Programs building to a new early learning center at MOE – $5.5 million.

The Middle/High School would be converted to an Intermediate/Middle School for Grades 4-8 including modernizing and improving safety of the Life Skills/Special Education Classrooms, alleviating traffic congestion, upgrades to the HVAC system and expand learning opportunities to include: Ag Science, Woodshop and Science STEM Academy. – $3.5 million.

  1. Restore Sargent Field into a modern football/soccer stadium……….$7 million

The plan at Sargent Field is to install a turf field to accommodate the community demand for both youth soccer and football. This would include replacing the existing bleachers, overhead lighting and press box, an upgraded concession stand and paved parking lots. It would also include rebuilding the athletic locker rooms and public restroom facilities -$7 million

If approved the new high school would be completed and ready for occupancy 2021-2022 school year. Planning for the high school would begin this June. The modernization of MOE and current High School/Middle School would follow the construction of the new high school.

“If they (the taxpayers) don’t pass this we are in a tough spot,” said DePaoli. “I get it… it’s a big tax hike, but we have to do it sometime.”

Bond passage requires a super majority (60%) to move forward. That means the District has to get the votes out and will have to have at least 40 percent of the last election weigh in to meet that 60 percent goal.

Senior citizens aged 62+ and disabled citizens with a total annual income of less than $35,000 may be eligible for a residential property tax exemption. More information is available from the County Assessor’s office at (509) 667-6365.

If you are unable to make one of the informational presentations, don’t hesitate to pick up an information sheet from the District’s office on Johnson Avenue.

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