For the first time in 17 years, the Finley School District may ask voters to support a bond.
At a proposed $10 million, it’s a comparatively small request compared to the bonds worth close to $100 million voters have considered in the Mid-Columbia’s larger districts in recent years.
And unlike those bonds, driven by burgeoning enrollments, the Finley bond is about improving and maintaining what the district’s three schools already have, particularly at River View High School.
A bond is still a novel issue for many in the unincorporated and largely rural community south of Kennewick. District officials, parents and the community are organizing now so that everyone knows what the money would mean for Finley schools.
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“Our school is our hub,” said parent Lisa Goforth following a recent district presentation on the proposed bond. “It brings our community together, it’s our pride.”
The estimated tax rate increase would be $1.65 per $1,000 in assessed property value, or $165 for a home assessed at $100,000, a rate roughly 70 cents higher than what property owners paid on the district’s last bond.
By comparison, Kennewick taxpayers are only paying 22 cents more per $1,000 on their assessed property value for a recently approved $89.5 million bond, the result of a bigger tax base with far more commercial property.
The estimated tax rate increase would be $1.65 per $1,000 in assessed property value, or $165 for a home assessed at $100,000.
Finley last had a bond on the ballot in 1999 and it was approved. The $4.7 million it generated went toward a new wing at Finley Middle School and other improvements at River View.
The district paid off the remainder of its bonds in 2011 and has been debt-free ever since.
The new projects would affect all of Finley’s schools, from replacing the carpet in Finley Elementary School and lighting in all the schools and district office to putting a new roof on the middle school and locker room upgrades, new bleachers and concession space at the district’s football stadium.
The most expensive proposed item is roughly $3.5 million to upgrade River View’s career and technical education building. Finley is in the running for a $3 million state grant that could be used for that purpose as well as upgrading the high school’s greenhouse — another listed bond project.
The district will know whether it’s awarded the grant in April. Then it can decide whether to reduce the bond amount or keep it at $10 million to take care of other infrastructure needs, said Superintendent Lance Hahn.
“Really, I think we’ve got the right number,” Hahn told parents, teachers and community boosters at the meeting.
I think our community will support our kids.
Lisa Goforth, Finley parent
Voters have supported Finley in renewing operations levies. The 64 percent approval voters gave the levy in the February special election bodes well for community support, Hahn said.
Some organizers questioned how they could get the word out that it’s a bond that’s being proposed and how to do so while following state election law.
The same rules apply as when a levy is on the ballot, Hahn said — the district can provide information but not encourage residents to vote “yes” or “no.” Organizers cannot meet in schools to plan or use district resources to rally support.
That’s easier said than done, Goforth and others noted, in a community that has little in the way of community meeting space outside the schools.
There was also concern about being able to find parents or others in the community who’d be able to help translate and reach out to the district’s Latino community.
But Finley residents aren’t letting those hurdles hold them back. Many have signed up for a citizens committee to promote the bond. They talked about meeting at the community center instead of one of the schools, what businesses they could approach about donating money for advertising and who would be able to translate information about the bond into Spanish.
One parent noted that social media needs to play a big part in getting the word out.
“I think our community will support our kids,” Goforth said.