Bond is the first in a small district that has paid cash for just about everything it has needed beforeNEAHKAHNIE - The Neah-Kah-Nie School District is asking voters to approve a $16.5 million bond measure to build a new middle school and renovate and upgrade the high school and Nehalem and Garibaldi elementary schools.

The bond is the first time the district has asked voters to finance capital construction.

"We've been able to pay cash," said Jay Kosik, superintendent of the Neah-Kah-Nie School District. "Given the financing of public schools today, we don't have the finances to do that."

If approved, the bond would add 94 cents on every $1,000 of assessed property value for the next 20 years. For a home worth $150,000, the bond would cost $141 per year.

More than 25 years ago, the district consolidated students at the high school in Rockaway, turning it into a junior-senior high school with grades seven through 12. Kosik said it was always the district's intent to build a middle school for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

The push for a middle school is coming now, in part, because of strained resources at the junior-senior high school, including limited library time and computer lab and science lab shortages. High school students have only one computer lab, which is used both instructionally and for state testing. The sixth graders in the elementary schools don't have science labs.

"Lab science is a critical area because No Child Left Behind mandates that we check students in those areas," Kosik said.

A dedicated middle school would allow the district to offer more electives such as foods, art and woodshop, Kosik said.

"We'll be able to do some much-needed things," Kosik said. "More educational opportunities so we can prepare students as best we can."

The 35,000-square foot school would be built on the north side of the existing high school, not on the Lake Lytle property. Kosik said there is room in the budget for the additional $70,000 in yearly operating expenses a separate middle school would cost.

While $7.6 million of the bond would be reserved for the new school, $5.6 million would be used for high school repairs and renovations, including a plumbing upgrade, roof replacement, floor covering replacement and renovation of the shop area into a cafeteria for use by both high school and middle school students, as well as some classroom renovations.

About $1 million is dedicated to each of the elementary schools, which have dry rot, outdated electrical wiring, ADA accessibility issues and old heating and ventilation, among other concerns.

Kosik said there is solid support for the bond. However, some residents are worried about the price tag.

"When you are in a position where you may raise taxes, segments of the community are concerned about the cost," he said.

Pat Ryan, chairman of the Neah-Kah-Nie School Board, said if the bond should pass, the school board has committed to selling some of the district's property to buy down the bond. The district owns land in Manzanita, Nehalem and Bay City, however some of the property is tied up in lease agreements.

"The district is very fiscally prudent, and I really feel we've reached a point and they've done everything they can to get the most out of the facilities they have," he said.

According to Tillamook County Elections Department, there are 5,147 active voters in the Neah-Kah-Nie School District. A simple majority is needed for the bond to pass Nov. 2 and there is no required turnout level. Bay, Foley, Garibaldi, Nehalem, Pine Grove, Rockaway and Wheeler precincts will vote on the bond.

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