The Kennewick School Board will ask voters for $89.5 million to help pay for five schools and various other projects as part of a proposed bond measure this winter.
The board has yet to adopt a resolution formally placing the bond on a ballot. However, members said during a Wednesday meeting that they were ready to select the amount after seeing projections that showed the state was expected to provide almost half the cost of constructing the new buildings.
"We have a responsibility to complete these projects with as little expense as possible but safely," said board member Ben Messinger.
The board has been considering putting a bond before voters in February for months. It would pay for two new elementary schools, a rebuilt Westgate Elementary School and two new middle schools, with one replacing Desert Hills Middle School. The bond also would pay for other building improvements and land for future schools.
The district had considered a bond as high as $92 million. Even at $90 million, taxpayers will pay less than originally projected because the board agreed to use $5 million in federal dollars to pay down part of the bond right away, district officials said.
With an $89.5 million bond, property taxes will increase 22 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, bumping the district's bond tax rate from $1.50 to $1.72 in 2016. That's an additional $22 a year in property taxes for a home assessed at $100,000.
Board member Ron Mabry initially pushed for a higher bond amount, noting that there's no guarantee the state will contribute close to half of the construction costs. He added that leftover money doesn't go to waste, referring to the district rebuilding Eastgate Elementary School ahead of schedule because the state provided more money than expected with the district's 2009 bond. That school is under construction and will open next fall.
"I think we've shown good stewardship," he said. "When we have more, we produce more."
Other board members said the $89.5 million amount still would allow some flexibility. Superintendent Dave Bond said other aspects of the bond are estimated costs that can provide a buffer if the bond total comes in a little under the total cost of projects.
The board is expected to vote on the bond resolution in November.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald