Why Rebuild, and What Will It Cost Me?
Why rebuild the high school? Couldn’t we just remodel?
PAHS is over two decades beyond a normal school’s service life. With several aging buildings in the district, the high school is the priority because of its importance as our community center, and because almost all kids will eventually go there. Schools are heavily used, and a normal lifespan is 30 to 40 years. Admirably, our district has managed to stretch almost 65 years out of PAHS. Remodeling was strongly considered and would be preferred if it were more cost-effective or if there was a coherent starting point. Unfortunately, we have a facility spread over a dozen buildings constructed mostly from 1952 to 1958, one in 1978, and several portables. There is substantial sealed asbestos throughout, intertwined with extensive worn infrastructure. For example, because of aging pipes buried under thick cement, there is only one remaining drinking fountain at PAHS that kids are asked to use, and only because that one has an expensive filtration system. While costing about 2/3 less to heat, a new school is much safer as a potential emergency shelter after natural disasters and in critical situations where control over entrances and exits is paramount. PAHS has served us terrifically well. Now it’s time to save what we should and redo what we must. We can build an effective, efficient, and wonderful school that will help our kids and community thrive for decades.
With schools, it’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN, we must replace them. Fortunately, now is an ideal time for our community.
- Interest rates are historically low, making our funding costs as low as we will likely see in our lifetimes. Capitalizing on this low-rate environment will save us tens of millions in interest expense. If you had the choice of a 3% mortgage or a 5% mortgage, which would you choose?
- Construction costs increase by about 4% per year. We know we must act eventually. Acting now saves us millions.
- The district will soon be debt-free, because it has been working to pay off two existing bonds early. Those will sunset just as this bond begins. This will substantially reduce the additional cost to you.
We have an historic opportunity. Now is a great time!
WHY the cost? $98 million seems like a lot. Is this just an opening bid to the voters?
No. There is no fallback position in a drawer somewhere. We must rebuild eventually, and waiting will only cost more. Remember that $98 million is the total project cost, not just construction. The estimates are taken from completed high schools built in similar communities in western Washington over the last 10 years, and are based on their average costs. Initially, the estimate for the whole project was over $121 million. Through strong public input and the desire to minimize taxpayer birder, the difficult decision was made to make do with the existing gyms, which cut almost $23 million. Because of extensive asbestos and age, any significant remodeling would trigger the requirement to bring it up to current seismic and life safety codes, which costs between 85% and 100% of rebuilding. Afterward, we would still have a school with about 40% less service life than a new one. Thus, rebuilding is the best value by far. Building with quality will save dramatically on heating, operating cost, and maintenance. It is proven time and time again that excellent school facilities are the highest-return investment a community can make in attracting living-wage jobs, recruiting medical providers, and boosting economic prosperity. Our education system returns much more than we could ever invest.
What will it cost me?
Your current levy has a projected rate $3.26 of per thousand of assessed valuation when it expires in 2015. The replacement levy will have the same rate. If you own a median $172,250 home, you currently pay about $562 per year, or about $47 per month, for your schools. To find your rate, multiply your assessed value by 0.00326. Be sure to include the first two zeros after the decimal, or your number will be a shocker! Remember, this is not a new tax, but a renewal of one we already pay.
The proposed bond rate is $2.06 per thousand of assessed valuation. However, two current bonds will be paid off as this one begins, so your net tax increase would be about $1.60 per thousand. For the median $172,250 home in Port Angeles this means about $276 per year, or about $23 per month to rebuild PAHS. To find your increase, multiply your assessed value by 0.0016.
Once the municipal bonds are issued, you can also own them yourself, bringing you back income you are paying towards the bond measure, and keeping local money at home.
If you are over 62 and on a limited income, you may qualify for excess property tax relief. Contact Clallam County for details.