Bond passage will give schools $4 million match

Sean C. Morgan

If Sweet Home voters approve a proposed $4 million bond measure in May, the Sweet Home School District will receive an additional $4 million in state funds for improvement and replacement projects in Sweet Home schools.

The Sweet Home district last week was named one of eight schools eligible to receive funding from the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program.

The funds are available on a priority basis to districts that approve grants. The intent is to help districts with relatively low property values raise enough funds to make needed facility improvements without overburdening taxpayers.

The board is considering a tax structure that would not increase the current tax rate – as long as property values continue to increase by at least 2.75 percent per year. The district’s property values have increased by 3.3 percent per year over the past 15 years.

The district currently is paying off bonds approved in 2001. District officials have been able to refinance the bond twice and will pay off the bonds 2½ years early, in 2027 instead of 2029. Under the structure proposed by district staff, a $4 million bond would extend the district’s payment schedule back to 2029.

“The question now is to present a plan to the board on what we would recommend as a district to target the funds to,” said Supt. Tom Yahraes.

This grant will double the district’s money, he said. As superintendent, his job is to support learning, to support student learning, curriculum, teaching and assessment, and it’s also to support the learning environment.

With this bond, the district would be able to make some safety improvements, modernize the learning environment and replace modular buildings, Yahraes said.

District staff members have outlined to the board a list of project recommendations, with a major emphasis on Sweet Home Junior High School.

The district has been collecting surveys about whether the community would support a bond measure and what the community would prioritize.

So far, the district has collected 570 responses, with 93 percent saying they would support a bond to make safety and security improvements throughout the district and to replace facilities that have exceeded their lifespan, if it does not increase the current tax rate.

The survey remains open at surveymonky.com/r/facility_bond.

The district will host a public forum and information meeting about the bond at 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 in the Sweet Home High School library.

The School Board will consider the bond during its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 13.

For more information about the proposed bond or the survey, call the Central Office at (541) 367-7126.

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