Following the failure of the Puyallup School District’s $279.6 million bond measure, the district’s board of directors took a hard look at what the future may hold.
An assessment of what the district faces, painted by facilities director Rudy Fyles during a Feb. 25 meeting, was a not a rosy picture.
“The sky is not falling,” Fyles said.
But Fyles added the negative effects won’t be felt until farther down the road.
Immediate effects will include continued capacity challenges at schools district-wide and a failure to meet cutting-edge technology standards.
Only 250 classrooms are equipped with the district’s 2004 technology standard. Fyles said the failure of the bond will leave 1,000 classrooms without the benefit of a technology suite, and those built to the standard will age without replacement equipment in sight.
As for capacity, Fyles said the district holds the distinction of having more portables than any other school district in the state.
“We don’t have room for more,” Fyles said.
Because of strain on fields and schools, Fyles recommended the district should curtail public use of fields and facilities over time. Instead, the district should be more school-focused in its use of fields and facilities, he said.
In the next 12 years, Fyles said the district will need $40 million for renewal projects.
“This will have a negative maintenance impact,” he said.
And with the failure of the bond, Fyles said the district will miss an opportunity to take advantage of low interest rates and construction costs. He said the number of contractors available are anticipated to go down, and supply and demand will raise future construction costs.
School Board President Chris Ihrig said the bond failure was disappointing.
“It represents a statement on our community and our kids,” he said.
Ihrig said the bond addressed three things: overcrowding and capacity challenges, the technology inequity across the district and safety concerns at older buildings.
“I don’t know how the board will vote to put the bond back on the ballot, but it’s a very urgent situation,” he said. “It’s time to rally around our kids and step up to the plate.”
Board member Greg Heath said two-thirds of eligible voters didn’t go to the polls. And that, he said, is concerning.
Heath urged the board to consider putting the bond back on the ballot as soon as possible, rather than wait until February 2014, when a levy measure will be up for renewal.
The levy, which provides funding for basic school operations, including salaries for certified and classified employees, is critical, Heath said. He was concerned that a bond package and levy before voters on the same ballot may be confusing.
Board members Pat Donovan, Pat Jenkins and Dane Looker all said the board should take its time to assess the bond package and make sure it’s a good fit before they put it back before voters.
“I just don’t see all the pain and urgency now,” Donovan said. “It’s an additional expense to put the issue back on the ballot.”
Looker, at 36, the youngest member of the board, said the sense of urgency is lost. When he graduated from Puyallup High School in 1995, he said technology upgrades were not a concern.
“Most of our voters don’t understand the impact and changes in education,” he said. “I’m not sure if we take the bond back in a few months that we will change voters’ minds.”
At a special meeting last Friday morning the board took no action to place the bond back on the April ballot.
The deadline to place a measure on the April ballot is March 8.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.