ARLINGTON – The Arlington School Board Monday approved running a construction and security bond measure in a February special election for a third try with voters, only this time it’s a leaner package with a lower price tag.
The requested amount has been decreased from $107.5 million to $96 million, district spokesman Gary Sabol said Tuesday.
Based on the district’s Facilities Advisory Committee recommendation, the new proposal will focus on improving safety and security at all schools, build an improved Post Middle School on the same site as the current one, and add eight classrooms to a crowded Arlington High School.
The total local schools tax rate would be one-third less than the tax rate paid in 2018, Sabol said.
District officials earlier this year surveyed community members and conducted public meetings that showed the community places a high priority on school safety and security.
The surveys also revealed community members were concerned about property taxes. In addition to the rebuild of Post and added classrooms at AHS, the revised bond proposal funds improved classroom door locks, security vestibules at entrances, and security cameras at all Arlington schools
The February and November 2018 bond proposals, both of which received majority approval but did not reach the 60 percent supermajority required, included improvements to athletic facilities, the district’s transportation center and drainage for elementary playfields, which have now been excluded to bring down the cost.
The district will still be eligible for state matching funds of $11.5 million and may use those funds to pay for projects removed from the bond, Sabol said.
Superintendent Chrys Sweeting said feedback indicated there were “some factors that worked against the passage of the bond, including uncertainly about taxes, school funding and certain projects. The needs presented in the February and November bond package still exist.”
Brian Lewis, executive director of APS Operations, said construction costs continue to escalate, the need isn’t going to go away, and that’s especially true for the Post project.
“Any effective improvement of the current Post Middle School would trigger code compliance requirements for seismic, energy and other building codes,” Lewis said. “Remodeling Post would be a waste of money. Building a new Post is the most-efficient use of public funds and provides the longest-lasting, safest school building with better classrooms.
“The longer we wait to address these building needs, the more it will cost in the long run.”