Health and safety top priorities for school bond committee |

Health and safety top priorities for school bond committee

by Scott Neuffer

Members of Keep Improving Douglas Schools, a committee formed in September to explore funding options for school capital improvement projects, made health and safety issues their top priority at a meeting at Douglas High School on Thursday.

“I am asking you to comb through everything and start prioritizing,” the district’s business service director Holly Luna told committee members.

Luna had prepared a list of the needs facing each school and the estimated cost of each expenditure, and told committee members they needed to form a consensus on what should stay and what should go.

The list includes: new insulation for Meneley Elementary , $300,000; new heating and boiler system for Scarselli Elementary, $650,000; new heating system for Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School, $1 million; replacement of underground gas lines at Gardnerville Elementary, $500,000; replacement of asbestos roof of Building B at Carson Valley Middle School, $500,000; replacement of student parking lot lighting at Douglas High School, $100,000; replacement of irrigation system at Pinon Hills Elementary, $150,000; new back up generator at Jacks Valley School, $100,000; new boilers and HVAC additions at Zephyr Cove Elementary and Whittell High School, $2 million; American Disability Act compliance upgrades district wide, $1 million.

The items only make up the top 11 out of a proposed 64 capital projects, which combined, Luna estimated would cost $47.4 million.

“We are going to have to explain to the public how we reached our end result,” said committee member Lawrence Howell.

Howell suggested establishing a basic formula to evaluate the urgency and viability of each project.

“Category one would be projects relating to health and safety. Category two would be maintenance projects where if we don’t fix the problem now it will cost us more down the line. Category three would be dollar-saving projects, things like energy efficiency, that would save us money in the long run. And category four would be everything else: wants, not needs.”

“A new HVAC system would fall into category one. A new soccer field in category four,” Howell added.

Other members agreed with Howell’s comments and said they would like to use his model in their compilation of the priority list.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, also a committee member, said that each category could be divided into subcategories.

“We’ve got to look first at what would be catastrophic and cause the shutdown of a school,” he said.

Luna said she would formulate a new priority list using the categories and subcategories suggested by the committee by the next meeting.

She said the committee would turn over their consensus to Marty Johnson, financial consultant for the school district. He will come back with an estimate of what kind of financing the district needs to achieve its capital improvement priorities.

If the committee decides a school bond is needed to finance the projects, they will make that recommendation to the school board which would need to place a bond measure on the ballot no later than July for next November’s election.

However, Luna said the committee should look at as many options as possible, including ESCO projects, or energy services performance contracting where contractors specializing in energy efficiency front money to the district for the replacement of things like lights and windows and are paid back only by the money the district saves because of the new efficiency.

The school district’s main concern is that when existing school bonds retire in 2011, they will lose a debt service tax and government service tax that funds their capital improvement projects.

Luna has stressed that a new bond will not raise the taxes of the voters but will only ensure the school district retains a current tax rate rather than losing it to another government entity.

Keep Improving Douglas Schools will hold its next meeting on Dec. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Zephyr Cove Elementary School in Lake Tahoe.