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BAPS school board approves calling of $52 million bond election; no tax increase for citizens

In a special board meeting held at 5:30 pm on Monday, Aug. 7, the Broken Arrow Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the calling of a general obligation bond election on Nov. 14, 2023.

“Last year our district passed the 20,000 student mark for the first time in our hundred-year history,” said Superintendent Chuck Perry. “The projects funded by this bond will help us to keep up with the rapid enrollment growth we are experiencing, while also enabling us to maintain our facilities and programs at the level of excellence our community has come to expect.”

The $52 million, five-year bond will be presented to the voters as four separate questions, each of which will require a 60% voter approval rate to pass. The first question, Proposition 1 on the ballot, will focus on safety, technology, transportation, and facility improvements across the district.

“The previous two bonds (2009 and 2015) brought numerous new facilities to the district, and this bond is necessary to maintain those facilities along with the other aging buildings across the district,” Perry said. “If approved, these bond funds will allow us to replace failing roofs, aging HVAC units and make safety enhancements such as a perimeter fence at our high school campus.”

Other items included in Proposition 1 include WiFi and infrastructure upgrades, desktop and tablet replacement, classroom display enhancements, and the creation of a transportation terminal in the southern end of the district, the goal of which is to increase routing efficiencies and allow an earlier dismissal time for elementary students. Other items included in Proposition 1 are a renovation of existing spaces at BAHS into Fine Arts practice and storage areas, and an updated facility for the high school tennis teams. The total amount for all the items included in Proposition 1 is $48 million.

State law requires districts to separate buses from other items in a bond issue, and for that reason Proposition 2 is limited only to transportation expenses. If approved by the voters, the $4 million included in Proposition 2 will enable the district to continue its replacement cycle of school buses, keeping the average age of a bus to around 13 years.

“Our district spans more than 115 square miles and we have more than 200 routes running twice each day,” Perry said. “When you total up all those miles, it would be like driving to Washington state and back every day.”

Propositions 3 and 4 ask voters to reconsider the details of two projects listed on the 2015 bond issue – an elementary school and the location of the aquatic center- but neither proposition asks for more funding. The 2015 bond included a project named “Elementary 17” which has yet to be constructed, because the dollars are not yet available for expenditure.

“Rather than add another elementary school, which will add to the district’s overall operating costs and require an attendance zone redistricting, we are asking the voters to consider adding classroom to existing elementary schools,” Perry said. “This idea was vetted and approved by our Long-range Planning Committee, the advisory group of parents, employees and administrators who helped us prioritize the projects included on this bond.”

A quicker construction timeline, less likelihood of redistricting, and more efficient use of taxpayer dollars are just some of the reasons cited for this recommendation. If voters do not approve the change, Elementary 17 will be built as planned, however inflation costs will reduce the overall size of the building. Thanks to inflation, the original budget of $30 million will now only construct a facility for 300-400 students, while that same amount could build more than 40 classrooms at existing elementary sites.  

The final question, Proposition 4, has to do with the location of the aquatic center, but the construction timeline and amount allocated to the project – $35 million – would not change.  The bond dollars allocated to the pool are not available until 2025, so like Elementary 17, this project has not yet started.  

“The 2015 bond included a new pool at the Kirkland Activities Complex, but since the passage of that bond, the City of Broken Arrow has expressed the desire to partner with the district in constructing and operating a pool at Elam Park,” Perry said. “While the amount and construction timeline of the pool will not change, if this question is approved by the voters, the pool may still be constructed at the Kirkland Activities Complex, but it would not be required to be constructed at that location. It gives flexibility.”

Each of the four propositions will be a stand-alone question on the ballot in November, meaning each can pass or fail independently of the others. If all four proposals are approved, there will be no tax increase if approved. Full and complete copies of the resolutions are available on the district website* along with numerous other materials explaining the items included in the bond. All four questions will be on the ballot when voters head to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.