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Posted on Jun 25, 2015

School board asks: Is a new high school in Quincy’s future?

Faced with a growing student population, the Quincy School Board aims to put a bond levy before voters early next year.
However, what the school board still must decide is if the price of a new high school will be included on that bond levy.
The Quincy School Board on Tuesday was presented with a recommendation from a facilities committee that’s been meeting monthly since April. The committee was charged with recommending what improvements should be made at this time to the district’s schools and what bond rate district taxpayers would support to pay for these improvements.
The committee was formed to look at these issues because of pressure on the district’s schools to accommodate a growing student population.
A survey of the school district and its future growth shows that in 2007 the district had 2,392 students. Today, enrollment is at 2,851 students, for an average growth of 65 students a year.
Growth pressures in the QSD will become “acute over the next five years,” with a projected increase of 372 students by the year 2019, the survey states. This is a 13 percent increase overall for a projected 3,223 students in 2019.
The facilities committee, made up of about 20 community members and school officials, recommended the school board consider a $92.6 million construction and renovation project that would include nearly $13 million in matching funds from the state, for a cost of about $79 million to district taxpayers.
The recommendation includes eight construction projects that would impact all of the district’s schools. Those projects and their estimated costs are:
wConstruction of a new junior high: $43.8 million
wConstruction of a new elementary school: $19.4 million
wThe addition of eight classrooms at George Elementary School: $4 million
wThe addition of a gym at George, Pioneer and Mountain View elementary schools: $7.6 million
wMinor capital improvements: $3 million
wImprovements to Quincy High School: $14.8 million
These improvements amount to an estimated bond rate of about $1.95 per $1,000 of assessed property value, said Steve McNutt of NAC Architecture, a Seattle firm that’s been helping the district through this process.
Among the reasons the committee did not recommend building a high school is because the high school is not eligible for state funding assistance for modernization or replacement; the junior high is eligible for about $10.2 million in state assistance, Superintendent John Boyd said.
However, school board members decided they would like to see more details about the costs associated with building a new high school and moving junior high students to the current high school. The school district owns 58 acres on the north side of town that could be the site of both a new high school and elementary school.
An option that includes building a new high school and completing other upgrades at the elementary schools and junior high would cost about $112 million, McNutt said. Or, about $2.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value, he said.
The facilities committee previously decided that district taxpayers would tolerate a bond rate of between $1.75 and $2 per $1,000 of assessed property value, McNutt said.
However, school board members questioned whether those costs would reach $2.75 in the coming years because of the growing tax base in the school district.
The school district’s tax base has more than doubled since 2007, McNutt said. Today, the tax base is valued at $2.3 million, he said.
On top of that, more than half the taxpayers in the district are large commercial enterprises, McNutt added. This puts the school district in a position where a bond levy has less impact on individual homeowners, he said.
While the Grant County Assessor’s Office is conservatively estimating Quincy will see another $50 million increase in its tax base in the near future, some people believe that number will be closer to $1 billion.
Board President Alex Ybarra said the tax base may reach as much as $3.5 billion in the near future when some of the ongoing data center expansions, including the Oxford Data Center that Microsoft is building, come online. And that would drive the bond levy rate down, Ybarra said.
The school board is expected to meet with bond finance professionals in July to further talk about the two options. If a decision is made next month, a bond levy committee would begin to meet in August and prepare for a Feb. 9 election.

 

— By Jill FitzSimmons, editor@qvpr.com

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