By SHANNEN TALBOT
Staff Reporter 

Cheney district adopts capital projects levy

The levy will appear on ballots in this November’s general election

 

August 8, 2019



The Cheney School Board’s July 31 meeting was a swift one, as multiple staff members delivered reports on matters essential to the future of the district.

Superintendent Rob Roettger said the district has been working with Davis Demographics, a K-12 school planning, consulting and mapping firm. The firm is in the process of releasing a report estimating Cheney’s student population projections over the next 10 years.

According to Roettger, the finalization of the report has been postponed to early September, but preliminary data indicates that the Cheney district could hold 10,000 students by 2029 — an increase of more than 5,000 students from current enrollment numbers.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Bill Johns cautioned the board against buying into the hype around population growth, saying that based on his years of experience, growth could come slower than predicted.

The board also heard a technology update by district technology support specialist Cliff Smelser. According to Smelser, about five years ago, the district invested $100,000 to replace equipment.

“That wasn’t enough, to tell you the truth,” Smelser said. “We’ve continued to get further and further behind.”

He said the district has made progress in addressing student and teacher technology needs, but are still “in desperate need for teacher laptops” and updates to the school’s safety and intercom systems. The problem is consistent throughout nearly every school in the district and the current wireless system already in place would support upgrades, he said.


The district’s capital projects leader, Todd Smith, also gave an update on school construction. According to Smith, the high school “looks pretty crazy — there’s a lot going on.” The parking lot is torn up but asphalt is scheduled to be laid Aug. 14, and the high school construction is overall progressing on-schedule.

Sunset Elementary and Windsor Elementary have both neared substantial completion as classroom furniture has been installed and the playgrounds striped.

Smith said the next three months of construction at the high school are going to be the most difficult of the entire project. The building’s current entrance is blocked, so when school starts, a 60-75-foot walkway will be constructed to the west of the current entry. That will allow students to enter the building safely.

Adding to the safety element are the new cameras, 70 percent of which will be online by the time students are back from summer break, and the main parking lot, which should be ready except for cosmetic landscaping.

Smith said workers are on-schedule to have concessions up and running by the school’s first sports game.

Finance Director Jamie Weingart also presented information to the board on the proposed capital projects levy. The funds gained from the proposed levy would only be usable for larger projects like school sites acquisition, building construction, technology updates and maintenance on fleet vehicles.


Over the course of two years, the levy would earn just over $4.2 million through a tax of 50 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value. The board unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the progression of the levy, allowing the levy to appear on ballots for the November election.

“This is a step as we prepare for the future,” Roettger said. “I think the growth is going to happen, and I feel like if we don’t do some of these things, we might be making a mistake.”

School board member Marcie Estrellado called the levy “a low-risk way to prepare for growth,” while member Henry Browne called it “a step in the right direction.”

Board member Mitch Swenson noted that even if the projected growth happens at 50 percent the projected rate, the district is still going to need to make significant financial decisions by 2022.

Shannen Talbot can be reached at shannen@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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