Meridian School District seeks $104 million bond

broberts@idahostatesman.comJune 11, 2014 

The Meridian School District, the state’s largest, will need three new schools as enrollment growth approaches pre-recession levels, officials say.

So voters will be asked Aug. 26 to tax themselves an additional $2.42 per $100,000 of taxable value to pay for 20-year bonds whose sale would finance school construction. A two-thirds majority is needed.

The overall levy for district bonds, plant facilities and operational spending would drop to $399 per $100,000 of taxable value from $438 today. That’s because of an 18.5 percent increase in property values throughout the district as a result of rising assessed values and new commercial and residential construction. When property values rise, tax rates typically fall, though the amount paid by an individual taxpayer might not.

The district’s last school bond election was in 2005 for $139 million — its largest ever. Voters approved the levy, and their money was used to build Rocky Mountain High School, Heritage Middle School and several elementary schools.

The Meridian district has 36,150 students. Since the recession began, it has added roughly 500 students a year.

Based on increases in Meridian’s residential building permits, school officials are forecasting 650 new students this fall, and they say growth could return to prerecession levels of 1,000 students a year.

“Every indication says there is going to be more growth,” spokesman Eric Exline said.

The bond vote follows voter approval in March of a supplemental levy for $28 million over two years. The levy is being used to maintain 45 teachers that had been cut during the recession, before an initial levy passed in 2012.

Here’s a breakdown on proposed construction:

One elementary school, $12 million

A location for the school has not been set. It would be either in the Amity and Eagle roads area or in the Southridge subdivision off Linder Road, south of Overland Road. The school would relieve overcrowding at several elementary schools south of Interstate 84, including Desert Sage, Silver Sage, Mary McPherson and Lake Hazel. It would not open until the fall of 2017.

Two new middle schools, $60 million

Victory Middle School would be located on Stoddard Road adjacent to Bear Creek subdivision, south of Overland Road. It would relieve overcrowding at Lake Hazel Middle School, which has 1,425 students in a building designed for 1,000. The opening date would be 2016, likely in the fall.

Star Middle School would be located on Pollard Street in Star and would relieve overcrowding at Eagle, Heritage and Sawtooth middle schools. That school would not open until 2017 or 2018.

Remodeling of Meridian High School, $24 million

The district wants to complete a renovation of the high school at 1900 W. Pine Ave. that started three years ago. That project has been funded from the district’s plant facilities levy and would have taken up to five more years to complete. If the bond passes, the work could be done within two or three years.

Plans include increasing classroom sizes, updating science labs, building a new library and special education classrooms, and adding 10 classrooms. When it is completed, the school would hold 2,200 students, up from 1,800 today.

New land, $8 million

The money would be used to buy property for new school sites.

Meridian trustees approved the amount and set the election date this week.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

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