Battle Ground plans $14 million in school improvements with levy funds

The capital projects will occur over the next three years, but each project is dependent on board approval of capital projects spending and the necessary contracts

BATTLE GROUND — Battle Ground Public Schools plans to spend $14 million in levy funds over the next three years to improve schools and complete what the district calls “much needed projects.’’ The capital projects will be paid for from the levy capacity that the district will receive as a result of the state legislature’s decision to increase the local property tax levy cap. 

Battle Ground High School is one of the schools in the Battle Ground district that will see facility improvements over the next three years with $14 million in levy funds. Image courtesy of Battle Ground Public Schools
Battle Ground High School is one of the schools in the Battle Ground district that will see facility improvements over the next three years with $14 million in levy funds. Image courtesy of Battle Ground Public Schools

In 2020, local school district levies will be capped at $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is less than the amount that Battle Ground School District voters approved in the last four-year levy election. For 2019, Battle Ground Public Schools’ tax rate is the lowest of all Clark County school districts, according to Battle Ground School District officials. In a news release, the district also stated that “and even with the increased levy cap in 2020, it is projected that Battle Ground Public Schools’ tax rate will be one of the lowest in the county.’’

The capital projects will occur over the next three years, but each project is dependent on board approval of capital projects spending and the necessary contracts. The $14 million will be in addition to the more than $10 million that the district invests each year in facilities maintenance.

District officials believe that many of the projects will strengthen the security at older school buildings and increase student safety. For example, installation of security fencing at Battle Ground and Prairie high schools and the Pleasant Valley campus will begin this winter.

Some projects will update buildings and extend their life by replacing roofs and HVAC systems, painting, remodeling bathrooms, repairing covered walkways, and replacing siding, worn out floor coverings and aging countertops. Other projects will enhance the learning environment with updated technology infrastructure, new lighting and covered play areas.

Some of the highlights include:

• Security fencing at all primary, middle and high schools

• Revised, secured main entries at the high schools, Captain Strong Primary, Glenwood Heights Primary, Maple Grove Primary, Pleasant Valley schools, and Yacolt Primary

• New 10-year roof coating at Pleasant Valley schools

• Replace HVAC units at Prairie High, Maple Grove Primary, and River HomeLink and the cooling tower at Battle Ground High

• Replace flooring at the high schools, Amboy Middle, CASEE, Captain Strong Primary, Chief Umtuch Primary, River HomeLink, Maple Grove, Pleasant Valley schools, and Yacolt Primary

• Technology improvements at all schools

• Covered play areas at Amboy Middle, Maple Grove Primary, and Yacolt Primary

• Library upgrades at Pleasant Valley Primary

A complete list of potential projects is on the district website: www.battlegroundps.org/facility-plans.

After the legislature approved the increased local levy cap, Battle Ground’s Board of Directors set aside a portion of the 2020 levy funds that are in this school year’s budget to begin the proposed projects. Many of the projects were included in a recent bond attempt that did not pass because even though the bond received a majority of the votes, it did not receive the required supermajority.

Directors said that without a bond, this plan would allow the district to make the improvements that many schools need now to maintain the buildings for the long run. By using levy funds for capital projects, the projects can be paid for as they are completed and not over the course of a 21-year bond repayment plan. Using levy funds on capital projects means that local taxpayers will not be responsible for interest payments that would have come with using a bond.

In addition to school improvements, the increased levy capacity gives Battle Ground Public Schools the ability to cover a projected annual average deficit of $4 million and gradually phase in middle school sports that will utilize existing facilities. 

How the levy cap came about

The 2018-19 school year marked the beginning of significant changes to how K-12 education is funded in Washington state. To meet the State Supreme Court’s order to fully fund basic education in Washington, the state legislature capped the amount of local levy dollars that districts can collect through property taxes and increased the amount that the state collects to be redistributed to all schools statewide.

For 2019, the legislature capped local school district levies at $1.50 (per $1,000 of assessed property value) and then raised the cap to $2.50 beginning in 2020. In 2017, Battle Ground voters approved a four-year levy to cover 2018-2021. For the calendar year 2019, the voter-approved levy amount would have been $33.26 million at a projected tax rate of $3.66 before the cap. With the cap, the district is receiving less, $15.8 million in 2019.

Information provided by Battle Ground Public Schools.

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