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The Benton Community School District is seeking the approval of voters in the district to pass a 48.5 million dollar referendum. Property owners would be taxed at $4.04 for each $1,000 of the value of their property. For every $100,000 or assessed value, $405 would be added to the property taxes each year. This amount is in addition toapproximately $10 million insales tax revenue to cover the balance according to the school's website. The vote for this referendum is set for March 7, 2023.

The district plans to hold public informational meetings on the following dates:

February 6, Monday, 6:30 p.m., Blairstown Community Center, 305 Locust St., Blairstown

February 8, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., Elberon Community Center, 106 Main St., Elberon

February 8, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., St. Patrick Church, 109 2nd St., Watkins

February 13, Monday, 6:30 p.m., Newhall Main Park Pavillion, 205 3rd Ave., Newhall

The school board met a few months ago to discuss a presentation suggesting the needed repairs in the current buildings. Part of the plan would consolidate Keystone and Norway elementary to Van Horne. An 80,000-square-foot building that would accommodate up to 700 students is one of the options with a price tag of 35.5 million dollars and it would be scheduled to open in time for the 2026 school year.

The school cites busing and the cost as a reason to move students into one central location rather than the various locations across the district. If there is an event where all students need to be in one location it requires busing the majority of the students to accomplish this. It's estimated that it costs about $700 per student to bus the students to their respective schools per year. Because of the rural area, the district is spread out over several small towns in southern Benton County.

The school shares information on theirwebsitesaying, "Benton's Facilities Study Advisory Committee began in 2020 and participated in a year-long study of facilities, including brainstorming and scoping work sessions, surveys and prioritization exercises.

A diverse group of 35 volunteers representing the viewpoints of community members, staff, and students participated. Through the process, the Committee completed a robust evaluation of the information and helped create suggestions for current improvement needs for the District's facilities. The school board unpacked the information, data, and recommendations provided by the FSAC committee to determine the main priorities aligned with funding possibilities.

The school board will continue to develop a long-range facilities plan based on these needs to provide our students with 21st-Century Learning Environments. The goal is to provide modern, safe, and equitable facilities that are sustainable for staff, students, and families. The improvements will set the foundation for the district to offer robust academic and extracurricular activities and rewarding experiences for students, staff, and families while being fiscally responsible in our decisions.

The Benton Community School District is proposing a $48.5 million general obligation bond (in addition to approximately $10 million sales tax revenue to cover the balance) referendum on March 7, 2023, for long-overdue facility improvements.

On the Ballot

Improvements at Atkins Elementary School
New addition (cafeteria/commons) and renovations, including additional classroom space.

Upgrades at the Middle/High School
Heating, cooling, electrical & safety upgrades. Remodel, improve and furnish and equip existing spaces including an improved, secure primary entryway.

New PK-6th Elementary Building in Van Horne
To provide modern, accessible, & adaptable facilities to support the evolving needs of the District. Including a regulation-sized basketball court with spectator bleachers.

Potential Facility Improvements

Priorities identified by the Board that may be included as part of a bond referendum are:

* Improvements at Atkins Elementary School to accommodate growth

* Heating, cooling, electrical, and safety upgrades at the High School and Middle School

* A new PK-6th grade elementary school in Van Horne to provide modern, accessible, and adaptable facilities to support the evolving needs of the district

Timing of Facility Improvements

Project timing will depend on a successful passage of a bond referendum in March of 2023.

Design of projects will likely begin immediately after the passage of the referendum. Construction will start on improvements as early as Spring 2024. Length of construction timelines will vary, with some improvements completed in 2025 and a new school potentially opening in Van Horne in time for the 2026/2027 school year.

Options for other district facilities, such as Norway Intermediate, Keystone Elementary and the old Van Horne Elementary, will be explored."

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th January 24, 2023, 8:50 am NOT a good time to raise taxes with inflation at an all time high! What is wrong with the district for even considering this right now!
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