The Pasco School Board endorsed an initial proposal Tuesday afternoon to put a $46.4 million bond on the ballot in February 2013.
If approved by voters, the bond would help pay for two new elementary schools, an early learning center and improvements and renovations at several other schools.
Superintendent Saundra Hill said the final details of the bond still are being developed, but its approval by voters likely would stall any need to operate schools year-round.
Board members did not take a vote on the matter during the workshop session before their regularly scheduled meeting but reach a consensus to have Hill move forward with a proposal.
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"I'm sorry we can't run it any sooner," said board member Rubn Peralta.
Pasco schools are overcrowded, with some at more than double their designed capacity. More than 15,500 students are enrolled in the district and enrollment is projected to hit 21,000 in six years.
Under the proposal, one elementary school would be built at Powerline Road and Road 52 and open for the 2014-15 school year. An early learning center for kindergartners would be built at Sandifur Parkway and Road 60 while district administrators still are seeking land for the third school. Those two schools would open for the 2015-16 school year.
The district would move sixth-graders into elementary schools to reduce demand for middle school facilities. The district would not need a new middle school until 2024, Hill said.
The district also would attempt to finish projects at other schools with money from the bond. Those projects include improvements to Stevens Middle School, construction of new science labs at Pasco High School and relocation of New Horizons High School.
"Whether we do all of them or some of them will depend on bids," Hill said.
The district would qualify for $38.1 million in state matching money if the bond is approved. The current proposal is estimated to cost 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to property owners, meaning the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $34 a year.
Lower interest rates helped bring down the estimated rate, Hill said.
Board members said they were happy with the proposal and at efforts within it to save money, including forgoing construction of a middle school and using a school design already used throughout the district.
"I think to me the responsible thing to do is move forward with the planning," said board member Ryan Brault.
The district asked voters for a $59 million bond a year ago to build the elementary schools, early learning center and a middle school. It would have cost property owners 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed property.
More than half of the voters rejected that bond, which led the district to begin investigating a multi-track school year, a situation where schools are open year-round and students attend at different times.
District officials have said residents have told them to only consider a multi-track school year as a last resort.
Hill said a district survey last fall showed 89 percent of respondents wanted to see a bond on the ballot as soon as possible or in 2013.
-- Ty Beaver 582-1402; email@example.com