Board of Directors Approves $51 Million Bond Election
On November 22 Othello School District’s Board of Directors approved a resolution to place a $51 million capital projects bond on the February 8, 2022, ballot. The proposed bond has an estimated tax impact of $1.14 per $1,000 in assessed property value.
If approved by voters, the 2022 bond will provide financing to replace the 600 building at Othello High School with 21 modern classrooms (18 standard and 3 science classrooms). It would also allow a new gym to be built at the school, with capacity for the entire student body, up to 1,500 people. "We are facing a capacity crisis at Othello High School. The 600 wing is functionally inadequate. Replacing it with modern classrooms will allow us to improve our program quality significantly, and the new gymnasium will give us greater ability to bring our students and community together for important events,” said Superintendent Pete Perez.
McFarland Middle School will be expanded to accommodate all OSD 6th grade students, freeing building capacity at each elementary school. “The workgroup did an outstanding job identifying this as the most cost-effective way to address overcrowding at our elementary schools, without constructing a completely new school,” said Director of Maintenance and Capital Projects, Gregg Fultz
“We have studied this grade configuration intently and have identified important ways that we can make it successful for all of our students,'' said Perez.
The plan also includes new gymnasiums at Hiawatha, Lutacaga, and Scootney Springs elementary schools, equal to the more recently constructed Wahitis Elementary gymnasium. “This is an equity issue in our lower grades. Adding equal gyms at the three elementary schools will give those schools greater flexibility and improve the functional adequacy of their buildings,” said Fultz.
The plan includes a new food services central warehouse located away from the OHS campus. The new facility will have expanded cold and dry storage and will help increase operational efficiency in the food services department. “This has been a priority project for our District for several years. Relocating the food services warehouse and expanding capacity increases efficiency in that department. It also makes space available on the OHS campus for future expansion needs,” said Perez.
The bond resolution was based on a recommendation made by the District’s Facilities Workgroup earlier in November. That group convened in the Spring of 2021 to build upon facilities studies, discussions, and work that has been almost continuously underway since 2006. “This was a group that represented our community very well,” said Perez. “We had parents, community members, and educators on the team. I want to commend their work. They looked deep into our facilities issues, considered the potential fiscal impacts on our community, and came up with an excellent plan to address our immediate capacity and programming needs,” said Perez.
“There’s been a lot of research, planning, strategizing, and very detailed financial calculations. It’s an excellent project that’s been presented to us. This bond addresses a lot of the things that we have been talking about for several years now in our district. It will expand opportunities and deals with overcrowding,” said Board President, Mike Garza
The $1.14 tax impact of the proposed bond would bring the total tax rate for Othello Schools to $4.31 per $1,000 in assessed value for 2023 through 2027. That rate is projected to fall to $3.85 in 2028 as the 2007 bond, which was refinanced in 2014, is fully paid . The current local tax impact for Othello Schools is $3.17 per $1,000 in assessed value.
The District has been a good steward of the community's investment in schools. "We were able to take advantage of some very fortunate circumstances in construction and financing costs with projects funded by the 2007 bond. Cost savings combined with additional state matching funds allowed the district to build Wahitis elementary, the 700 building at OHS and fund a portion of the Desert Oasis High School Renovation without seeking additional local funding from Othello taxpayers. We were also able to refinance our 2007 bonds, in 2014, to save taxpayers over $2 million," said Perez
The bond request will appear in the February 8, 2022 election. "Ballots are scheduled to be mailed to voters on January 24,” said Communications Director Ed Petersen. "We have information about the bond, the projects, and voter registration available on our website at www.OthelloSchools.org/Bond2022." The District will also hold a series of informative forums with the board of directors in January. "Community members should watch their mailboxes, our website, and social media for announcements about dates and locations for these forums," said Petersen. “They can also sign up to receive frequent news and information updates from the district via email.”