It’s election season, which has folks focused on having their voice heard through their ballots.
And while it is essential for voters to return their marked ballots, voting isn’t the only time citizens should be heard. It is critical to let public officials know what direction you want them to take.
On Wednesday you will have one of those opportunities to have your voice heard on a very important issue — the size of the proposed project to modernize Walla Walla High School.
School Superintendent Mick Miller is detailing plans for modernizing Wa-Hi at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the high school auditorium. Miller will show preliminary building plans, discuss options for modernization and review costs. This is an opportunity for the public to let Miller and the School Board know what this community is thinking.
A citizens committee, the Community Facilities Task Force, has been working to prioritize the district’s capital projects. Upgrading Wa-Hi and Lincoln High School have surfaced as the most pressing needs.
After getting recommendations from the Task Force, school officials are looking at a Wa-Hi overhaul project costing between $68 million to $82 million. Funding this size of a project would require passage of a local bond of between $47 million to $55 million. State matching funds would be counted on to make up the difference.
At this point, we aren’t convinced the public would support a bond of $47 million or more. In June we used this space to urge school officials to update the Wa-Hi facilities in smaller increments.
We suggested a bond request of around $15 million as a number voters would find more affordable and acceptable. Taxpayers would not see their property taxes rise much because the Sharpstein Elementary bond of about $11 million approved in 2000 is scheduled to be paid off in December.
The Wa-Hi science building seems to be the area that needs the most attention. We also believe Lincoln is in dire need of attention right now.
But what do you think? That is what Miller and the School Board members need to know. They can’t read minds, and can only develop a plan that will be acceptable to the voters (it takes 60 percent approval for passage) if the people voice their views.
In addition to the Wednesday meeting, the district is seeking public input through an online survey (wwps.org/atoz/wahi_conceptual_design.htm or bit.ly/RRhHeW).
Take the time to be heard as a plan to upgrade local school facilities is being finalized.