INDEPENDENCE — In November, Central School District will ask for a $26 million bond to improve facilities, from expanding classroom space to adding gyms.
Should voters approve the measure, it should not raise property tax rates, Business Manager Cec Koontz said.
That is because of some refunding the district did earlier this year, the property tax rate that would be assessed is currently estimated to drop in 2016-17.
“If we pass this bond now, and interest rates on bonds remain low when we go to sell them, and assessed property values in the district grow at an average rate of 3 percent over the next 27 years, we estimate that the rate would stay at this year’s level long enough to pay off the bond,” Koontz said.
The goals for the bond stem from the long-range plan completed in 2012, Superintendent Buzz Brazeau said. Projects include major components of either deferred maintenance or maintenance issues in need of correction.
“Originally, we were talking about some field space over on 16th Street, some work at Independence Elementary School, Monmouth Elementary School and Talmadge Middle School,” he said. “Halfway through the process, we started looking at enrollment numbers, particularly at the middle school.”
A bond exploration committee comprised of citizens, school board members and district employees saw that Talmadge is expecting one of the largest sixth-grade classes it’s had: 290 students.
“The 2012 plan called for a potential addition of a pod at Talmadge to finish some of their needs,” Brazeau said.
After looking at other needs in the district, Brazeau said the committee moved away from field space altogether.
“They identified work they felt we needed to do at IES,” he said. “They felt we needed to air condition it.”
While 100-degree days are uncommon in Polk County, they do happen, Brazeau said.
“When they are there, it’s pretty intrusive,” he said.
Other work at IES includes replacing the modular buildings, which are old and in need of replacement, Brazeau said.
“And, of course, we have the requirement ahead of us that I know the Legislature is talking about and aren’t going to address until February, and that’s the increase in physical education in K-8 grade,” he said.
The expected increase in PE requirements combined with the communities’ needs for more athletic facilities gave the bond exploration committee members the idea that gymnasiums should be included in the bond, Brazeau said.
“We need to make adjustments in cafeteria spaces for lunch, and gymnasium spaces for physical education,” he said.
Right now, elementary schools make use of gyms for lunch time, and many gyms are old without regulation stats — cushioned floors and short baskets.
Originally, the bond exploration committee recommended the school board go forward requesting the bond when the district would receive a $4 million matching grant from the state.
“We didn’t get the money,” Brazeau said.
Even without the grant — which the district could still receive if Central voters pass the bond and other districts are not successful in their bond bids — the committee thought the timing was right to go for the money.
In addition to the district’s needs at the elementary schools and middle school, the bond, if passed, should have no effect on property tax bills, Brazeau said.
“We can’t guarantee anything, but the estimate that is in the current financial environment is that we would not be increasing the (tax) assessment for anyone,” he said. “It would go longer; but the assessment wouldn’t go up.”
The Falls City School District trying again to pass a bond to build a new multipurpose gym and cafeteria at Falls City Elementary School in November.
The district is seeking a $2 million bond at the cost of $1.30 per $1,000 of assessed value on property taxes over the next 20 years.
If the bond is passed, the state will provide another $2 million for construction through the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program, which the Oregon Legislature approved during the 2015 session.
The Legislature appropriated $126.2 million for grants during the 2015-17 biennium for school districts that pass school facility construction bonds. For November’s election, six school districts were guaranteed grants if they could pass bonds. Falls City School District was third on the priority list.
The grant comes at no addition cost on property taxes in Falls City.
The bond failed by 11 votes in May’s primary.