Oct. 17 Ferndale Record OpEd

When your ballots arrive this weekend, you’ll be asked to approve a school bond to ensure tens of thousands of Ferndale high school students have the facilities they need to prepare for a 21st century global economy.

This request is the culmination of months of work by the 85-plus members of the community-led Bond Task Force. For more than five months, Bond Task Force volunteers studied Ferndale School District maintenance issues and toured District schools with the most pressing facility and safety needs. In the end, the Bond Task Force recommended asking District voters to approve a $112 million bond – $105 million to construct a new, 220,000 square foot, two-story Ferndale High School, $4 million for critical repairs and equipment upgrades in our elementary and middle schools, $2 million to modernize the high school Performing Arts Center, and approximately $1 million to improve safety and security at all Ferndale School District buildings.

The Bond Task Force determined that renovating the old high school campus would not be an efficient use of taxpayer funds because it would require the District to bring every renovated building up to current codes, which could prove very costly. Given the ages of the current buildings (the last major renovation/addition was completed in the 1970s), there could also be a long list of expensive surprises that might appear during the renovation process. Renovation also wouldn’t fix security issues at the high school campus, which has more than 80 entrances and is very spread out, providing huge security challenges.

Because every primary building on the high school campus requires extensive repairs and equipment upgrades, the Bond Task Force also determined that constructing a new, standalone high school would free up annual maintenance funds the District could better use to address the needs of our elementary and middle schools. Finally, the Bond Task Force determined a new high school should have the highest funding priority, as every child in the Ferndale School District will finish their education in that building.

The Bond Task Force did discuss whether the District should pay an architect to do a preliminary design of the proposed new high school, but the members decided it wouldn’t be a prudent use of taxpayer dollars until voters decide they’re willing to pay for the new building. There’s also a more cost-effective method of designing new buildings, which brings the architect and builder together before and during the design process, enabling a more cost-effective build.

Because of the Washington State Legislature’s response to the McCleary decision (the State Legislature was found to be insufficiently funding public schools), 2018 is also an excellent year for the residents of the Ferndale School District to approve a new bond. In 2018, every property owner saw a large, one-time increase in our education-related property taxes. In 2019, however, the Legislature’s plan will drop our local school levy rate nearly $2 per $1,000 of assessed home value (from $3.47 to $1.50), which means voting to approve this $112 million bond request would NOT significantly impact your education-related property taxes.

One of the most important decisions Bond Task Force members made was to have the Ferndale School Board form a Bond Community Oversight Committee. This committee will monitor all aspects of bond-related spending and work to ensure bond money is spent as the voters intend. On September 28, members of the Bond Task Force selected seven Ferndale School District residents to serve on this committee.

The members of the Bond Community Oversight Committee and their areas of expertise are: Dan Cornelsen (Construction Management), Riley Cornelsen (Construction Management), Mark Harting (Business Management and Finance), Sandi McMillan (Finance), Anya Milton (Management), Adam Rustad (Business Management), and Bo Smith (Construction Management).

This community-driven, community-led effort to build a new Ferndale high school won’t happen without you, though. We need 60% of you to vote to approve the bond. So, when you sit down to vote your ballot remember this – Our Kids. Our Community. Our Future. By coming together to build a new Ferndale High School, we, as a community, can ensure our children, and their children, have every opportunity to grow into strong, resilient, successful adults.

Wendy Lawrence, Co-Chair
Joe Lupo, Co-Chair
Support Ferndale Schools Committee

Ferndale Record OpEd (subscription required)