HARRISBURG — Voters in the Harrisburg School District will be asked this May to extend the district's last school bond, which goes off the books next year, to repair Harrisburg's schools.
If approved, the 15-year bond would add 50 cents to the current bond tax rate of $1.09 per $1,000 of assessed value. That rate would become $1.59. A home with an assessed value of $200,000 would see an increase of about $99 per year.
The measure is expected to bring in $8.9 million, and district officials are crossing their fingers they'll also be eligible for $4 million in state matching funds. Those only come through if another district's bond fails, however.
Harrisburg's elementary, middle and high schools all would receive improvements and upgrades if the bond measure passes, said Justin Thomas, a member of the Harrisburg School Board and chairman of the Eagles Political Action Committee in support of the bond.
Plans include roofwork, electrical and plumbing system upgrades, additions or replacements of various heating and ventilation systems, and resurfacing for the high school track.
Safety and security measures will be a part of the bond, although plans aren't firm yet. Thomas said discussion is centering on adding security cameras and possibly redesigning school entrances to create vestibules where visitors have to wait to be buzzed inside the main buildings.
If there's enough money, Superintendent Bryan Starr said he's also hoping the bond will pay for some classroom additions. A new science lab at Harrisburg High School would be high on the list.
Harrisburg Middle School was built in 1938, and the elementary school in the 1950s. The high school, built in 1972, is the newest, with a wing added in 1999 through funds from the district's last bond measure.
The district has worked hard at maintenance over the years, Thomas said, but after a while, buildings break down.
The walls in the high school's multipurpose room are pocked where water leaks have caused moisture to seep into the surface. P.E. classes at both the high school and the middle school have to work around strategically-placed buckets when it rains.
The sinks in the high school chemistry lab are coated with rust and no longer drain. Some of the HVAC systems are "barely functioning," Thomas said. Holes in the surface of the track have kept the district from hosting a home meet for the past five years.
"We are working with some old buildings," he said.
Information on the bond measure and the political action committee was scheduled to be available online as of today on a Facebook page labeled, "Yes for Harrisburg Schools." More information also is available from the PAC via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas has four children in the Harrisburg district, in third, sixth, ninth and 12th grades. If the bond passes, he said he'll be excited about seeing work that will benefit each of the approximately 886 students.
He's aware, however, that many Harrisburg residents live on a fixed income and struggle with paying taxes, and that voters already agreed —by just 14 votes — to pay a city bond levy for a new water system.
"That's not lost on me, and I don't think that's lost on this committee," he said of the PAC.
To Thomas, the investment is worth it, and he said he's hoping voters with deep roots in the community will want to help preserve the assets they themselves used.
"By adding just an extra 50 cents, you see we can get $8.9 million," he said. "We're trying to take care of their legacy, that they created."