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KIRTLAND — Cracked floors and walls at two Central Consolidated School District elementary schools are among the problems that could be fixed if voters approve a proposed $20 million bond that would be paid for by continuing an existing property tax. The bond would allow construction of a new building that would house kindergarten through sixth grade, the merging of two schools and various repairs.

Prominent cracks in floors and walls caused by expanding soil settlement were highlighted during a tour conducted by district officials of Kirtland's Ruth N. Bond and Grace B. Wilson elementary schools as reasons why the district is pursuing the nearly $25 million project to build a new school for kindergarten through sixth grade.

The district is holding a special school district election on Aug. 27. The proposed $20 million general obligation bond would help fund the district's portion of the new school along with heating and air conditioning repairs at Kirtland and Shiprock high schools. Heating and air conditioning repairs and renovations also are planned for Newcomb High School.

Both Kirtland elementary schools are in the state's top 15 most in need of repairs, according to the New Mexico Condition Index. The list maintained by the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority has Grace B. Wilson at 12 with Ruth N. Bond at 34.

Spokesman James Preminger said the current annual tax rate for bonds is $6.828 per $1,000 net taxable value of a home.

If a home is valued at $150,000, $50,000 of that would be taxable, yielding an annual payment of $341.40 for the homeowner.

Preminger said in an email the district has made efforts to keep the rate the same.

"That rate may vary slightly, but the district strives to maintain a stable tax rate for bonds. We've done this by paying down our bonds, refinancing our bonds for lower interest rates, and having an Aug. 27 bond election for $20 million instead of the original (proposed) $27 million," Preminger said. He said the bond amount was reduced in anticipation of decreased tax revenues, which would have required a property tax increase.

The 44-year-old Ruth N. Bond Elementary building has an exposed crack in the tile floor of the cafeteria which nearly crosses the length of the lunchroom. The crack is about three to four feet away from the outer wall, causing a minor slope. In one of the cafeteria wall's, a two to three foot vertical crack juts alongside a clock.

CCSD construction coordinator Dennis Fieldsted said the construction style of Ruth N. Bond coupled with shifting soil settlements in the foundation caused the cracks to form.

The "twin t" structure of the roof puts a lot of weight on the foundation and when combined with drainage issues, causing rainwater to accumulate, the soil becomes saturated and will expand or collapse.

"That school with that roof and foundation, it needs to be re-built, renovation is not going to take place at that school," Fieldsted said. "We might be able to renovate (Grace B. Wilson) but the other one needs to come down."

Ruth N. Bon Principal Melissa Roberts said she doesn't have any safety concerns about the cafeteria, aside from it being small but is eager to see what the district and community thinks about a new building.

"It depends on what the community wants," Roberts said. "If the community is for that, then I'll support the community totally."

Settling soil has caused the cafeteria and gym floor at Grace B. Wilson to buckle and crack also.

The cafeteria floor does not have an exposed crack, but a 20 to 30 foot line of elevated soil is stressing the tile.

In the gym, the floor has multiple cracks caused by the concrete floor expanding and contracting. The carpet on the gym floor hides a good portion of one crack but the crack intersects with another in front of the bleachers.

Fieldsted said the construction joints in the gym floor are the cause of the cracks. He said the joints are not close enough together.

The outside of the building has at least one crack in the brick exterior, causing breaks in the mortar.

Fieldsted said if renovation of both schools was chosen, it would cost about $22 million, about $3 million less than building the new combined elementary.

In the renovation scenario, the state would pick up less of the cost because it deviates from the Public School Facilities Authority's recommendation to build a new school. That means the school would be paying millions of dollars more in construction and design costs, officials said.

The age of both schools also is a concern as the state would not participate in helping pay for additional construction work for at least 20 years, making Ruth N. Bond more than 65 years old by the time it again qualifies for funding.

"When you talk about renovation, when it costs you as much to renovate as it does to build new, why do you want to renovate?" Fieldsted said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.