State may help with Marysville School District transportation needs | GUEST OPINION

The Marysville School District has a one-time opportunity to use the remaining 2006 school construction funds to qualify for $8 million in state funding for a bus transportation cooperative — a partnership between two or more districts. Marysville’s current transportation site is inadequate for present and future needs. Good stewardship of district funds, together with a favorable construction market and state support, provides an opportunity to meet critical needs at less cost to local taxpayers.

Why Transportation? We currently service, dispatch, park and maintain 100 buses at the district service center. Underground fuel tanks are wearing out. Our bus wash facility is inadequate; water and soap from hundreds of bus washes per week go directly into the ground without recycling. This is costly, time consuming, and does not meet minimum basic requirements.

Stretching Local Funds: After meeting — and exceeding — the 2006 bond issue promises, about $5.5 million remains in the construction fund. While this is not enough to replace a school ($20 million), with state help it may be enough to address our transportation needs. State law states these dollars can be spent only on construction — they can’t be used to cover state cuts to the day to day operating budget.

$8 Million in State Funding: The state has one-time money remaining in their capital construction account.  They will provide $8 million in state support for a transportation co-op — a partnership between two or more districts.  By working with neighboring districts we would be able to share in the cost of routing buses, lowering the cost of fuel, and providing parts and maintenance for our bus fleets as well as solving the bus wash and fuel tank issues.

Promises Made Are Promises Kept: Marysville School District has completed all of the work promised in the 2006 bond issue. Grove Elementary and Getchell High School were completed on time and under budget. All other bond commitments — land, small projects, and technology — have also been completed.  In each case, we have been able to do more than we promised.  Nearly $8 million in small projects have helped keep our older schools going — with projects like the Pinewood sewer, electrical panel fixes at MMS, and heating and ventilation improvements in many schools.

Stewardship: Marysville also completed new schools for Heritage, A&T and 10th Street with NO local property taxes. This project was funded entirely through mitigation fees (on newly constructed homes) that previously went to purchasing over 100 portables. We now have new and improved classrooms that will serve 700 Marysville students for many years to come — without increasing property taxes.

Citizen Oversight Committee: A committee of eight citizens with extensive community and construction expertise provide “oversight” of district construction projects. They have helped us stretch our local construction funds.  Now, as we near the end of the 2006 bond funding, the oversight committee has helped us consider remaining district needs.

Best Investment? We have set aside $500,000 for school construction emergencies (heaters, plumbing, electrical) and bond repayments.  For technology we have set aside $800,000 more than promised, however bond dollars can buy only equipment, not tech support.  After planning for these contingencies, $5.5 million remains. These dollars cannot be used to balance the day-to-day operations budget and is not enough to build a new school.  Using these remaining funds for a transportation co-op will meet a critical district need and stretch local tax dollars by qualifying for $8 million in state support. We would avoid expensive repairs, prepare now for future growth, and create lots of local construction jobs.

Next Steps: We will ask the Citizens’ Oversight Committee for a recommendation, hold a public forum in conjunction with our Citizens’ Planning Committee, schedule a public hearing at an upcoming board meeting and then ask the school board to take official action. Our district web site will be updated with more information.

Meeting Needs: If all of these pieces fall into place and state approval is received, construction could start in the fall of 2012. We would meet critical transportation needs, solve environmental issues, create local construction dollars and stretch local tax dollars one more time to do even more than promised.

For More Information: There will be a Forum/Citizen’s Planning Committee meeting on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Marysville Board Room or visit the Marysville School District website at www.msvl.k12.wa.us.

Dr. Larry Nyland is the Superintendent of the Marysville School District and can be reached at superintendents_office@msvl.k12.wa.us.

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