Ballots out this week for $46 million Lynden school bond

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 19, 2014 

Lynden Middle School

Lynden Middle School math teacher, Angie Dallas, works with students, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 at Lynden Middle School.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

LYNDEN - Lynden School District could rebuild its aging middle and an elementary school if voters approve a $46 million bond in a special election Feb. 11.

The bond money - along with $16 million in state matching funds - would pay to rebuild Fisher Elementary School at its current location and rebuild Lynden Middle School on district property on Line Road.

Sixty percent of voters in the school district will have to approve the bond for it to pass. If approved, the 20-year bond would increase property taxes for a home assessed at $250,000 by about $440 per year. Lynden School District retired its last capital bonds in 2010, so residents currently pay no taxes for bonds.

Ballots should be out to voters this week. Superintendent Jim Frey said voters most ask him about the bond's cost, the design process for the new schools and what will happen to the current middle school after a new one is built on Line Road.

The projected cost of the new middle school is $43.2 million, with $11 million of that total from state matching funds. The Fisher project is estimated at $18.8 million, including $5 million in state funds.

Though design for the schools won't take place until after the bond is passed, Frey said that the district plans to take a conservative approach - doing what is needed rather than fulfilling a wish list.

"Any time there's an increase in a tax, there's a concern and people want to make sure that's essential and necessary and not frivolous and not meant to provide something that isn't needed," Frey said. "We hold a trust with our community to do those things that are needed and necessary and not ask for things that are unnecessary."

Rebuilding these two schools is needed, Frey said, because of the age and condition of the buildings. The elementary school was built in 1961, while the middle school dates back to 1936. Plumbing and water systems are failing and costly to repair; heating and ventilation systems are old and inefficient; classroom and common space is insufficient for the number of students in the schools; and roofs, ceilings, walls and floors need repairs.

"There's a need in both schools that's not going away," he said. "The cost will continue to go up and the need will continue to be more significant as the buildings continue to age."

For those who suggest remodeling the schools, Frey said that rebuilding is actually more cost efficient. A district study found that bringing the middle school up to code and remodeling it to extend its life for another 30-plus years would cost more than rebuilding. Replacing the infrastructure and systems at the elementary school would cost nearly the same as rebuilding. Even if they were remodeled, the schools still would be limited to their current designs.

If the bond passes and the middle school is rebuilt on Line Road, then the district might eventually sell the current middle school property, located at 516 Main St., if it's profitable, Frey said. The school's gym and Judson Hall auditorium would remain as district facilities to serve students and the community.

Specific design work for the schools will take place after the bond is passed, with parents, staff and community members having a chance to let the architect know what makes sense for Lynden.

GET MORE INFORMATION

District residents who would like to learn more about the bond can attend an information session at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, at Lynden Middle School, 516 Main St.

More information about the bond is available on the district's website at lynden.wednet.edu, under the "Facility Bond" link.

Superintendent Jim Frey said anyone with questions or concerns about the bond or with interest in touring Fisher Elementary School or Lynden Middle School can call 360-354-4443 or email him at freyj@lynden.wednet.edu.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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