Blaine sending $45 million bond to voters in February election

The Blaine School District is asking voters to approve a $45 million bond that would pay to renovate the high school and upgrade Blaine elementary and primary school buildings.

Ballots for the Feb. 10 special election are out this week. The 20-year bond would replace the current bond that expires in 2016.

Tax rates of the new bond are projected to cost property owners $1.04 per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value, or $260 a year for a $250,000 home. That is slightly less than the rates of the current bond.

Bonds to renovate Blaine High School were not approved by voters in either 2008 or 2011. The $32 million bond in 2011 had 59 percent voter approval, just short of the 60 percent needed to pass. A $3 million bond was approved by voters in 2012 to add six science classrooms. This bond also needs 60 percent voter approval.

Ron Spanjer, Blaine School District superintendent, said this $45 million bond is similar to previous bonds that did not pass. He said the increase in price is due to higher construction costs. One difference from previous proposed bonds, however, is that this one does not include property acquisition for an elementary school in Birch Bay.

But Spanjer is confident Blaine-area residents will recognize that improvements to the high school are necessary.

“What we’ve heard most consistently is that people understand the needs of the high school and the high school facility, and with this being a replacement bond, now is the time to get this done,” Spanjer said.

The high school campus is “outdated and undersized” for the number of students, Spanjer said. The core facility was built for 350 students in 1971, and he said there are now 640 high school students who currently share a library, cafeteria and computer labs with the middle school. He said heating and ventilation issues at the school also need to be addressed.

Spanjer added that the current infrastructure does not support the number of computers needed on campus.

“We didn’t know that ultimately every student would have their own computer and need wireless access,” Spanjer said. “We’ve really maxed out the capacity of the system as it currently stands.”

Amber Porter, director of finance and operations for the school district, said the proposed bond also would allow needed security improvements. The campus currently has 46 entrances, making it difficult to secure the building. The new building’s design would enclose it and reduce the number of entrances to three, she said.

The high school renovations are projected to cost $38 million.

The district also hopes to add an eight-classroom pod to Blaine Primary School that would support-all day, every-day kindergarten. That project would cost an estimated $4 million, Spanjer said.

Other facility improvements in the proposed bond include expanding the cafeteria and adding four classrooms to Blaine Elementary School, improving the emergency communication system at all schools, and replacing roofs at Blaine Middle School, Blaine Primary School and Point Roberts Primary School.

“We’re excited to get started on what’s been talked about for a long time,” Spanjer said.

More information on the proposed bond, and videos on its need, can be found at the district’s website, blaine.wednet.edu.