Taking care of our current schools would impress

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In my July 2013 letter, I suggested the Walla Walla School District budget for last year was $50 million. It was actually approximately $60.9 million.

Next year’s budget is $65.3 million. The district will receive an additional unbudgeted $4.5 million from the state next year.

We’re told the bulk of additional new funding has been set aside for specific purposes. The district didn’t mention upgrading the science building as one of those purposes.

The School Board’s anticipated response to this suggestion: Those extra funds have to be spent on education, not construction. Construction is part of education.

With these added funds, the district will have in reserves $5.2 million not assigned for specific purposes. Information source: Aug. 21 U-B.

Because of the additional state money for operations, the reserves are partially attained from the annual $10 million maintenance and operation tax levy.

Additional funds from the state gives the School Board unique opportunity to show some reciprocal gratitude to the taxpayers for passing annual levies.

Let’s use $1 million a year of those reserve funds for one to three years, as needed, to upgrade the science building during the summers. No bond needed.

Why replace an existing beautiful brick science building that coalesces with the rest of the Wa-Hi campus with a new building — projected cost about $15 million? The science building is structurally sound.

The science building only needs maintenance and equipment updates! It’s not necessary to spend multi-millions on architect fees to update windows, heating/cooling and lab equipment. Suppliers of these products have engineers who are well capable and knowledgeable about their products and equipment.

Our School Board needs to abandon its entrenched ideology that school buildings are only usable for 50 years. Many downtown buildings are twice that old. How many homes are destroyed after 50 years of use?

School Board members need to treat school property like they would if they were paying for it themselves instead of the taxpayers. They act like the taxpayers are some nebulous source of never-ending cash. That doesn’t give incentive to economize.

The School Board doesn’t need new buildings to impress the public. It’s much more impressive to take care of what you have and update only when necessary.

When all College Place students exit, let’s remove all the portable classrooms.

Wa-Hi is a beautiful campus! A campus to be proud of! Let’s maintain and keep it that way.

Vern Filan

Walla Walla

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