Multimillion Dollar Questions for the School District

In 2015, the Bainbridge Island School Board and approved a capital projects levy request for $81.2 million to replace Blakely Elementary and High School Building 100.

The bond levy was based on a $39 million estimate to replace Blakely Elementary, and  $42.2 million to replace Building 100.

At the time of the bond campaign, researched the current building costs and school comparisons used by the School District and approved by the School Board and concluded in a January 25, 2016 posting:

“Conclusion: A bond amount of $39M for Blakely is about $9 million more than what the school should cost. Blakey Elementary replacement should be in the range of $29M-$30M.”

This civilian cost estimate was totally dismissed by the School District, some members of the School Board, and  very strongly disparaged by some school supporters on social media.

As would be expected on Bainbridge Island, island voters approved the school bond capital projects levy.

Mithun, the School District’s architect for Blakely Elementary has completed a 290 page Educational Specification Document, and it is now posted to the school district’s website. The budget page:




Using the additional costs experiences at Wilkes Elementary and adding an inflation factor, the additional soft costs will likely be between  $4.8 million and $5 million (they were $4.6 million for Wilkes discounting land acquisition and a new water main costs). That includes an extensive laundry list of costs including architect fees, special consultants, permit fees, utility fees, new furniture and playground equipment, new computer and tech equipment, building commissioning costs, etc.

An additional $5 million (high estimate) for additional soft costs would leave some $7.7 million of the bond levy’s advertised $39 million for Blakely Elementary still unexplained IF the construction cost of Blakely is  $26,291,948 as the recently released Educational Specification document states. However, that “fixed” construction cost figure may change as the project is designed and actual construction bids are considered per Tamela Van Winkle, BISD’s capital projects manager.

For Wilkes, there is still slightly more than $3 million of the bonds $32 million the school district seems not to have informed the public how the money has been or is planned to be used. Capital projects staffing likely accounts for some of that, but that’s a small staff, and  there was also an additional $10 million in the Wilkes replacement  bond levy for additional BISD capital expenditures, none of which were specifically detailed to island voters. position is that voters who approve multiple millions of dollars in property tax levies deserve full and open transparency on where the bond(s) money is being expended.

Pretty simple, straight forward concept.

The Blakely Elementary School capital project is still an early  work in process …and this blog is just following money trail.