By Marcy Stamper

The Methow Valley School District is proposing to borrow money so it can compress the schedule for facilities repairs and upgrades into four years instead of six.

The upgrades, supported by a $4.5-million levy approved by voters last year, could be done more cost-effectively by combining some projects and taking advantage of lower costs, said Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable, who recommended the shorter timeline after reviewing a six-year plan submitted by the district’s director of operations and capital projects.

The proposal to borrow $3 million was presented to the school board directors at their March 23 meeting, along with a tentative schedule for the work, which will start this summer. If the district borrows money to condense the schedule, it would use the money collected during the last two years of the six-year levy to repay the loan. Borrowing money would mean an additional cost to the district from the interest on the loan, which would be paid out of the district’s general fund, said Venable.

The district’s attorney confirmed that state law allows the district to use proceeds from a levy to repay the principal on a loan.

“We’d be borrowing money to save money,” said school board director Frank Kline, who anticipated the district could come out ahead by combining contracts for some of the work. Administrators hope that doing the work sooner would enable them to finish before materials, labor and interest rates become more expensive, said Venable.

Taxpayers will be paying slightly less in the initial years of the six-year levy. The levy will collect 58 cents per $1,000 of property valuation this year, which drops to 52 cents in 2021.

The district’s facilities task force and director of operations have come up with a priority list for the work. Repairs proposed for this year include installation of water fountains, sinks and showers; kitchen upgrades; removal of the old bus garage; and replacement of old thermostats and dry fire valves. The current bus garage, shop and art classrooms would get new ventilation systems and the Independent Learning Center would be modernized. The first projects also include resurfacing the tennis courts.

In 2017, the district would replace floors and furniture at the high school and upgrade the emergency phone and lock systems. The following year the elementary school would get new floors and furniture and the campus would get a playground that conforms with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The final year of the proposed four-year repair schedule involves asbestos abatement, insulation in the Cub gym, new sidewalks and a community soccer field.

The idea of taking out a loan to be able to do the work more quickly must be reviewed by the facilities task force, which assessed campus needs and recommended the original projects. There will also be an opportunity for public feedback.

The school board would have to approve a resolution to borrow the money.