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Central Battling Bond Confusion

Some district residents believe Dallas measure is what they will be voting on

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Proponents of a $47.3 million bond to reconstruct Central High School knew they would have to thoroughly explain the details of -- and need for -- the project to voters before the Nov. 4 election.

What they hadn't anticipated was having to dispel a mistaken belief in the community that Central School District's Measure 27-90 and a bond being floated simultaneously in neighboring Dallas are one in the same.

Nonetheless, officials and board members have found themselves of late fielding questions from some residents about Measure 27-91, a $79.5 million bond for a new high school and other improvements in Dallas School District, and its effect on property taxes in Monmouth and Independence.

A situation such as this arising "is nothing that ever occurred to me at all," Superintendent Joseph Hunter said. "I'm flabbergasted."

Hunter said he first learned of the issue about four weeks ago, while speaking with a civic group. Since then, citizens have stopped by his office or confronted Central School Board members about the Dallas bond.

Central's measure would finance a major reconstruction of the high school. The 30-year bond's selling point has been that it won't increase district property taxes from the current $3.36 per $1,000 of assessed value because it takes effect when two old bonds expire in 2010.

Dallas' bond would run $4.09 per $1,000 for 25 years, with a levy of $2.42 per $1,000 added to the existing $1.67 per $1,000 rate until 2012. The $4.09 rate would then continue until 2034.

The concern, said Hunter, is that people are associating Dallas' bond information with Central's, and might vote no because of it.

"Central's is a no-tax-increase option," he said.

Hunter said he believes the problem originates with a couple of factors, one being a month-long series of articles in the Itemizer-Observer about Dallas schools.

Hunter said people have referred to those stories when speaking to him about Central.

There has also been confusion from residents who live within Central's district, but are outside of Monmouth and Independence and have Dallas and West Salem addresses. Hunter said he's had one person ask him about being taxed for both Central's bond and a proposed $242 million bond in the Salem-Keizer School District.

Property owners are only billed for school district taxes due to the specific school district where their property is located, said Douglas Schmidt, Polk County Assessor appointee.

Hunter said the district is mailing out a new bond letter to residents that clearly outlines the project.

"We don't know how much confusion is out there, but we do know it exists," he said. "The best information we have will be available to the community.

For more information: www.central.k12.or.us.

(See related item, Page 5A)

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