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School Board to weigh $4 million bond proposal


February 7, 2017

The Sweet Home School board will consider Monday, Feb. 13, whether to request a $4 million bond from district voters in May.

The School District won a matching grant of up to $4 million from the State of Oregon, essentially doubling money raised by a bond.

If the board and then voters approve the bond, the state would provide an additional $4 million, allowing the district to complete up to $8 million in building and equipment improvements.

Based on savings from refinancing, district officials believe that the bond would not increase the tax rate Sweet Home property owners are already paying on a 2001 $18.7 million bond that paid for reconstruction of large portions of Sweet Home High School and a new wing of classrooms at Hawthorne, as well as various improvements and repairs around the district

The district has refinanced the bond twice, said Business Manager Kevin Strong. With the savings from the refinancing, the district is set to pay off the bond with a partial payment in 2027. It originally was scheduled to pay off the bond in 2029.

As long as property value growth is more than 2.75 percent, if approved, the existing bond and a new $4 million bond would be paid off in 2029 or finished with a partial payment the following year. At higher rates of property value growth, the tax rate, currently $1.62 per $1,000 of assess value, would even shrink.

The refinancing “has allowed us to leverage $8 million,” Strong said.

The grant funds are provided through the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program, said Supt. Tom Yahraes. The program targets school districts with relatively low property values to assist in facility maintenance and improvement demands.

“I think we are a poster school district for a program like this,” Strong said.

Sweet Home was one of three districts qualifying for one-to-one matching funds, Yahraes said.

School officials have been outlining the proposal in a series of seven public forums held at each of the schools.

The district has received 608 responses to a survey about a bond as of Jan. 31, Strong said. Of those 93 percent said they would support a bond if there were no increase in the current tax rate, and 55 percent said their priority for projects was to produce facilities that are safe and secure.

At a forum held Feb. 1 at the High School, Yahraes asked Sweet Home resident Linda Morelli, the only person to attend that particular forum, what she thinks taxpayers are concerned about.

“Property taxes,” she replied. “They keep going up and up and up.”

Yahraes outlined several goals for bond projects:

- Provide facilities that are safe and secure.

- Provide facilities that help inspire learning.

- Provide facilities that are adaptable and flexible for future needs.

- Upgrade facilities and technology for 21st century learning.

- Replace temporary school structures that have exceeded their lifespan with permanent facilities or extend the lifespan of facilities.

- Provide facilities that are symbols of pride for students and the entire community.

- Positively impact as many Sweet Home students as possible.

District officials are recommending that the bulk of the money be spent improving the Sweet Home Junior High School, with smaller projects at other buildings around the district, including enhanced security and lockdown abilities across the district.

Among needs identified by district staff are the following:

Sweet Home Junior High

Staff is recommending reconstruction of deteriorating modular satellite buildings, a new cafeteria, another gym, new electrical, new plumbing, additional windows to allow more natural light and HVAC repairs. The office would also be moved where office staff could observe the school’s front entrance.

Darwood said district maintenance employees glued down flooring in one of the satellite modular buildings last week.

High School

Recommendations include a new roof over the B and C buildings, portions of A building, Metal Shop, Auto Shop and the Activity Gym, auditorium upgrades, repairs to storm drainage and new tables in the outside courtyard area.

Foster Elementary

Proposed projects include a covered play area, upgrades to the heating system, a new front entrance, new windows, new roofing and hot water lines throughout the school.

Hawthorne Elementary

Recommended bond projects include additional storage space in the gym for tables, new windows, new roofing, a new front entrance, new HVAC controls and new plumbing.

Holley Elementary

Proposed improvements include new windows, a covered area at the modular entrance, ADA accessibility to the modular building, new roofing and reinforcement of the masonry walls.

Oak Heights Elementary

Projects include a new roof on the Opportunity Room and gym, hot water throughout the school, new gym flooring, asbestos tile abatement and new automatic doors to the gym.

Monday, the board will consider whether to pursue a bond and a general list of projects to be covered by the bond. Voters will decide whether to approve the bond in the May 16 election.

If approved, the bonds would most likely be sold in November, Strong said. Construction would likely run from June 2018 through August 2019.


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