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Voters pass school bond by wide margin

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By Carol A. Clark

The school bond issue before residents passed by more than a three to two margin in results announced Tuesday night. Of the 6,566 ballots cast, 4,031 approved the bond and 2,535 opposed it.

“We’re so excited,” said Superintendent Mary McLeod from the Blue Window where she and bond committee members gathered to await the verdict. “I just can’t thank everyone enough for their support. It really shows people are willing to put their money into the schools despite these difficult economic times. It’s so wonderful to be part of this whole revitalization plan and I commend our committee members who did such a marvelous job.”

School Board Secretary Ken Johnson also attended the committee gathering.

“I’m very grateful that our fellow citizens saw fit to invest in our schools,” he said. “It’s a great thing - it pleases me to no end.”

Johnson thanked everyone who participated in the bond campaign during the last several months, especially School Board President Steve Girrens whom he described as the major force behind the bond effort.

Girrens was home recovering from a bout with the flu when he received news the bond passed.

“This is a critical time for our schools and the purpose of this bond is to increase our investment to save what we have and to get us on a steeper slope to recovery,” Girrens said. “I want to thank everyone who voted and all the committee members and others who worked so hard to make this happen. I want to especially thank Superintendent Mary McLeod for being our fearless leader - she was outstanding.”

Now that the bond has passed the hard work begins and there’s a lot to be done, Girrens said.

State statute dictates that the maximum bonding capacity of a community is 6 percent of the total valuation of taxable property contained in that community.

The total valuation for Los Alamos is some $650 million. Bonding to capacity is essential to LAPS because now it is eligible for a larger percentage of matching funds for selected capital projects from the state.

Now that the bond has passed, LAPS will receive some $40 million to be used for capital projects. Bond money cannot be used for operational expenses.

Based on recommendations in the 20-Year Facilities Renewal Plan for 2009-2029, developed by the Facilities Planning Committee, projects have been laid out and prioritized.

The Facilities Renewal Plan addresses the most urgent needs of the schools and allows for support and maintenance of existing structures awaiting replacement.

The plan will be reassessed every four to five years to ensure appropriate use of funds.

Proposed Projects include:

• Funding Cycle 1 - $40 million to replace B-D wings at Los Alamos High School and complete some site work;

• Los Alamos Middle School to start multi-use PE and classrooms; and

• Aspen Elementary School classroom design.

The projects were selected by a committee of citizens, experts and school staff who toured existing facilities in order to assess and prioritize the needs of each site.

Committee members included LANS Facilities Engineer Grant Stewart who is a former Public Works director. Homebuilder and developer Stan Primak who is a former LAPS Teacher also served on the committee, as did LANS Physicist Morrie Pongratz who formerly served on both the County Council and the school board.

Rounding out the committee were Al Moellenbeck, a licensed civil engineer and an electrical and general contractor and Larry Goen, a structural/civil engineer who is responsible for the Facilities Infrastructure Reinvestment Program at LANS.

The tax increase to pay for the bond will go into effect in September and that tax rate will not increase for the life of the bond.

Voters pass the last four bond questions

Deputy Clerk Adrianna Ortiz said during an interview this morning that a $7 million General Obligation bond to erect and remodel buildings passed Sept. 19, 2006. In that election, the clerk’s office mailed out 13,209 ballots and counted 5,615, with 4,023 for the bond question and 1,592 against it.

“There was a mail out public school improvement bond election on June 17, 2005,” Ortiz said. “We mailed out 13,444 ballots, counted 5,922. We had 3,871 for the question and 2,042 against. In that election, our records show it called for $3.246 for the first $1,000 of net taxable value.”

Ortiz also mentioned her records show a special school bond election was held Aug. 29, 2002. The purpose stated in her records was $6 million for buildings.

In that election, 12,191 ballots were mailed out to voters, 5,333 were counted with 3,719 for and 1,607 against the bond question.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com, 662-4185 ext. 25 or visit her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.