Bremerton schools levy discussion continues

Aside from a new central kitchen and the expansion of the West Hills STEM Academy, high on the Bremerton School District’s list of improvement projects is topped with replacing Bremerton High School’s 25-year-old leaking, cracking and moss-covered roof, which is still under warranty.

The roof’s condition and why district officials — who are now not in office — decided to install the concrete roof were discussed at the Bremerton School Board’s meeting last Thursday.

“[The roof] needs to be one more suitable. I can’t guess what they were thinking when they decided on it,” district finance and operations director Wayne Lindberg said Tuesday. “It is proven to not be very durable in this weather.”

Going through the roof’s limited 50-year warranty, Lindberg and the district’s attorney discovered that many things such as surface cracking or chipping and stepping on the roof to fix it, are not included in the warranty. A new metal roof replacement would cost about $1.9 million. The District Facilities Committee compiled a list of improvement projects and the new high school roof is one that is suggested be tended to within the next four years.

It’s projects like a new high school roof that money from a capital projects levy would go toward. While the school board has not made any official decision on moving forward with a levy or what the amount would be, discussions continue, said board member Scott Rahm Tuesday.

Lindberg said that one potential levy option he has suggested would gather $7.6 million in four years. This would be a 59-cent increase in taxes per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value beginning in 2013.

The list of district projects that the facilities committee suggests should be addressed within the next four years make up about $11.6 million in costs. In addition to a new high school roof, central kitchen and the West Hills addition, it includes upgrading fire alarm panels to meet new codes, roof replacement at other buildings, general energy upgrades and updating student technology.

Wendy Stevens, chair of Citizens for Good Schools Bremerton, said the volunteer committee has primarily been receiving positive feedback from community members regarding moving forward with a capital projects levy.

“Overall there’s an understanding that we’re a financially responsible district,” Stevens said. “We’re not going to close programs. We need to take care of buildings.”

While Stevens has a child in kindergarten in the district, she said it doesn’t matter what grade a student is in because the school buildings need to be maintained now or the district will have to pay the consequence in higher costs for repairs later.

Rahm said at this point, no one can dispute that the facilities need to be maintained. With cuts from the state and federal level to education, Rahm added that there are not too many other ways to go about getting the needed money. Putting a capital projects levy to an August vote has been discussed by board members.

“You hate to ask the community for more support, but our options now days are limited,” Rahm said.

Because the high school roof is more than 22 years old, Lindberg said there is the potential to receive some state matching dollars, should a levy be approved and pass. Such a matching fund would hopefully cover 50 percent of the cost, he said. Work to replace the roof could begin as early as this summer. Other ways to alleviate costs of repair projects would be through receiving grants, where possible, such as with the STEM school expansion.

The school board is expected to determine a levy amount and length at the March 15 board meeting followed by a resolution prepared at the end of the month or in early April, said Lindberg.

For an August election, a resolution deadline is May.

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