Vote on $20 million in school bonds less than three weeks away

In less than three weeks, Clovis voters will be asked to uphold current bond rates to provide $20 million for new buildings and upgrades for the Clovis Municipal Schools District.

The election is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 7 at 10 polling locations throughout the city. Early voting is ongoing until May 3 during normal office hours at the Curry County Clerk's office.

School officials said because no tax rate increase is associated with this bond election, the election would be a bond renewal; with current property tax rates of $4.95 per $1,000 of assessed property remaining in place. Of that $4.95, the bond up for election make up about 28 cents of that total. Assessed property is one-third of actual value, so a $150,000 home in Clovis is subject to school property taxes of $247.50 with the current bonds in place and $233.50 if voters rejected the bond extension.

According to a release from the district, the $16 million would cover:

• A new James Bickley Elementary, $3.5 million: Bickley was originally advertised as a renovation project in the runup to the 2010 bond election, but later evaluation showed that a new building ($10 million) would cost only a little more than renovations ($9 million). Myers said in a May 2011 meeting that a 20 percent match for the new school would be covered through part of a $16 million bond voters approved in 2010.

This time around, the district is asking for $3.5 for construction of a new Bickley Elementary, and a status report from a February meeting showed that $641,000 had been spent on design only for the school.

Myers, who is out of the office this week, couldn't be reached for comment. Jody Balch, CMS' deputy superintendent for operations, declined to speak on behalf of Myers but said the district has around $1 million set aside for preliminary work on Bickley.

"There are some things to do up front, like core testing of the grounds (for geothermal energy capability)," Balch said. "That generally comes out of the district's pocket, though we're reimbursed down the road."

Additionally, Balch said, the district has spent extra money building the new Gattis Middle School, set to open next school year.

Projects approved by the state's Public School Facilities Authority are funded on an 80-20 level, but only on PSFA specifications. That means if the school district believes it needs a 30-classroom school, but the PSFA approves a 25-classroom school, the school district pays 20 percent of the cost for the 25 classrooms and 100 percent of the additional five classrooms.

In the case of Gattis, the middle school was approved by the PSFA for a capacity of around 720. Balch said the district decided to build the school to accommodate 900 students, and footed the bill for additional classrooms and an additional gymnasium.

"We've looked at all the K-6 numbers for years to come," Balch said. "There's a real spurt in the second- to third-grade levels."

Should the attendance on the 40th day be around the 720-student level, Balch said, PFSA will consider that justification for CMS' approach and will reimburse the district around $3 million.

• A new Parkview or Highland elementary school, $3.5 million: The reason the district has termed the schools as an "either/or" is that it would prefer to build a new Parkview Elementary first, but Highland Elementary is a few places higher on the PSFA priority list and the district has not yet received permission to work out of order.

The district has received donated land for Parkview and plans to build there, and can only build a new Highland Elementary in its current location. The plan would be to build the new Parkview Elementary on the donated land at 14th Street adjacent to the Almond Ranch Subdivision, then use the former Parkview building to house Highland students while the new school is built. Following construction of a new Highland Elementary, the old Parkview building would likely become a new location for the Choices Alternative School.

• Science lab upgrades, approximate $1.57 million: This would cover upgrades at Yucca and Marshall middle schools and the Clovis High School Freshman Academy.

• Parking lot/drainage improvements, approximate $4.62 million: Improvements would take place at Clovis High School, CHSFA and Cameo Elementary, the central office, the Arts Academy at Bella Vista, Barry Elementary and Zia Elementary. The CHS project, at $1.5 million, is the most expensive.

• Design work, approximate $680,000: Work would cover either Parkview or Highland, along with Cameo and Ranchvale elementary schools and Yucca Middle School.

• Elementary playground replacement, approximate $5.37 million: Covers Barry, Cameo, Highland, Mesa, Parkview, Ranchvale, Sandia and Zia elementary schools, the Los Ninos Early Intervention Center and the Lincoln-Jackson Family Center.

• Miscellaneous district projects, approximate $1.44 million: Projects could include a reflooring of the Clovis High School's "lego" gym and side money for the eventual replacement of the artificial grass surface at CHS' Leon Williams Stadium.

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