Central voters say no to school bond

INDEPENDENCE/MONMOUTH — Voters said “no” on Nov. 8 to Central School District’s request for a $26 million facilities bond, 4,636 to 4,164 (52 to 47 percent).

Business Manager Cec Koontz said that district officials have yet to formulate a plan b, partly because the specific conditions, including low interest rates, may not repeat themselves.

“The opportunity to ensure the matching grant from the state would be available is another thing that drove our timing,” Koontz said. “To take advantage of those things again, we’d have to go back out in May.”

With the search for a superintendent and a high school principal this spring, Koontz said it’s not feasible to attempt to talk to the community about a bond at that time.

Koontz said that had voters approved the bond, Central schools would have received a $4 million grant from the state to help build the new gyms and classrooms — something officials couldn’t promise during the election, but knew was possible.

“We were first on the waiting list,” Koontz said. “Only two of the six who were guaranteed funding passed their bonds.”

Overall, it was a pretty negative election for school bonds, Koontz said, noting that bonds passed on the east side of the mountains, but many on the west side failed.

“It was tough,” Koontz said. “Measure 97 was a very divisive and difficult issue, when you’re thinking about schools and school funding.”

She said that even if Measure 97 had passed, it would not have addressed the facility needs at Central schools.

“We couldn’t have used Measure 97 for capital items,” Koontz said. “That’s our job to explain those differences. Maybe we didn’t do that.”

Koontz and Superintendent Buzz Brazeau were at an Oregon School Boards Association conference in Portland throughout the weekend. Koontz said they hadn’t been able to reconvene the bond exploration committee yet to debrief from the election results.

She said the members of the bond exploration committee did a great job driving the process.

“We had some great parents who were active and engaged, but apparently we didn’t get the story told,” she said. “So we’ll see what the exploration committee is interested in.”

With the state budget shaping up to be tight, Koontz said there’s no guarantee the grant program will be reinstated for the next biennium. Another factor is the increase in contributions to the public employee retirement system, which the district — among other government bodies — will struggle to meet.

“We’re going to have to do something,” Koontz said. “None of these projects can wait. Talmadge (Middle School) has another bubble of kids coming next year, so we’re going to have to look at some things, maybe use the construction excise taxes we have or capital improvement funds, but it won’t do any of the gyms. It won’t do the cafeteria, and it won’t replace the portables at IES.”

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