Grant Elementary Improvements On-Hold - School District Seeks to Defease Remaining Bond Dollars
The Ephrata School District school board and administration announced today a decision to place the remodel of Grant Elementary School on-hold due to skyrocketing costs of construction. The District intends to hold a public hearing in October to seek input on their plan to defease remaining local bond proceeds. A bond defeasance is a process that sets aside and invests the remaining bond dollars in escrow to ensure that the principal and interest payments on the bonds are guaranteed and can be made when the bonds come due. If approved, this action will lead to the district reducing future tax amounts.
The Grant Elementary decision follows an announcement in June that halted renovations to Ephrata High School’s Performing Arts Center (PAC), the PAC gymnasium and the Beezley Springs building on the high school campus due to soaring costs. All projects were part of a $27.89 million dollar bond passed by the Ephrata community and matched with state funds in 2019.
In the June announcement, the District had projected that it would go out for bid on Grant Elementary construction in the fall. At that time, the project was anticipated to return bids 55 percent higher than budgeted in 2019. Over the summer, anticipated bids were expected to be higher again by an additional eight percent, meaning that project costs would be 63 percent more than the original budget.
“To say that we are disappointed that we cannot afford to fulfill the promises we made in the 2019 bond is an understatement,” said Tim Payne, Ephrata School District Superintendent. “We turned over every rock we could to find the money needed to complete this project. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. Instead of using the bond dollars to fund other projects, we feel strongly that a new plan should be developed and presented for a vote of the people. We will follow the legal guidelines established to ensure the remaining 2019 bond dollars are set aside appropriately to partially defease and reduce the future tax levy amounts.”
The District will immediately begin to work on plans for a bond in February of 2026 or 2027 that will address the needs of Ephrata Schools. A facility study group will be formed that includes staff, experts and a diverse group of community members. These individuals will be tasked with developing a comprehensive vision and plan for the next bond.
Ken Murray, Ephrata School District Assistant Superintendent stated, “As a product of Ephrata schools, I bleed orange and black and I know we will come together and rise to overcome this challenge. We have proven time and again that our community doesn’t see a challenge as something that will stop us, but as something to overcome and that helps us learn and grow. Although I am disappointed, I have faith in us. I am confident that we will come together and chart a future for Ephrata schools that will make us all proud.”
Ephrata Schools, despite the change in plans, is committed to keeping the combined bond and levy taxes close to $4.80 per $1,000 of assessed value.
“We are choosing to see hope and opportunity despite our disappointment,” said Payne. “Though it may take a bit longer than we expected, the District in partnership with the community will put together a plan that is in the best interest for our kids, schools and for the community of Ephrata.”
About Ephrata Schools:
Since 1909, Ephrata Schools have provided a quality public education to all students, regardless of ability, race, wealth, language, religion or country of origin. At Ephrata Schools, we exist for kids and learning. We are deeply committed to every child's journey and work hard to ensure that every student graduates ready for career and life. For more information about the Ephrata School District, please visit www.EphrataSchools.org.
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