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Breaking down bond measures

A look at the five measures facing Sherwood voters in November

It's hard to imagine opposing any of the five bond measures that will face Sherwood voters, given the importance of each issue: education, law enforcement, open space, libraries and fire safety.

After sitting in on presentations, speaking with representatives from organizations advocating for the measures and reading extensively about each, I support all five. Nonetheless, there is a financial reality many voters will face. The combined impact of the five bond measures, if each passed, would be $2.86 per $1000 of assessed value on a home. The average assessed value of a home in Washington County stands at $192,000, meaning the average homeowner stands to shell out an extra $550 total for all five measures.

Of course, it's important to consider your taxable assessment. Some folks will get off easier, while homeowners in some larger homes could be much lighter in the wallet. With these financial realities in mind, I'll rank the bond measures in terms of which I believe are most crucial to pass at this point in time, along with Web sites that will provide additional information for you to begin whittling down bond measures if you must.

But keep in mind that Sherwood and Oregon are growing rapidly. In fact, more than one-half of all Sherwood residents didn't live here a decade ago, and each of these bonds deal with finding ways to accommodate growth. (The last dollar figure in the bond title represents the cost per $1000 of taxable assessed value)

1. Sherwood School Bond, $98 million, $1.97

If you can only vote for one bond issue, this is it.

For starters, a first-rate public education system is the bedrock of any successful community, and Sherwood schools deliver. The district is better than the state and national average in all 20 state assessment tests. Its reputation proceeds it. Of course, that makes the community more desirable, and administrators are running out of thread with which to sew the district's fraying seams.

Every single school building is filled at or beyond capacity. The district has 30 portable classrooms, and 29 are now filled. When students went home for summer break, there were 3800 enrolled; three months later, there are nearly 4100. Portland State University demographer Judith A. Barmack typically projects school enrollments over an eight to 10-year period. In Sherwood, she won't go beyond five years, and her current projections, only one year old, are already low by a few classrooms full of children. A combination of relative affordability, livability and available housing has made Sherwood the fastest growing district in the state.

While the district has refrained from offering worst-case scenarios of what might occur if the bond doesn't pass, Board President Connie Hansen admitted that district officials will have to spend a lot more time dealing with the problem of where to put teachers and students, siphoning away valuable hours that should be dedicated to education. Sherwood students and teachers would face unwieldy class sizes and more portable classrooms, which would likely have to be placed on top of playgrounds and playing fields. Space for music and arts would likely become even more cramped. It's hard to imagine that the district could maintain its level of academic excellence.

While this bond is the most expensive of the five on the ballot, no organization has moved forward with so much collaboration with the community. Committees began meeting one-and-a-half years ago, and the board conducted a second survey when construction costs began to skyrocket. Even with the $98 million price tag, the district had to make painful cuts, but Superintendent Dan Jamison said those cuts were made based on community input. The Sherwood School District has worked painstakingly to craft a bond measure that will insure a quality education for the community's growing school-age population without added frills that would have taken a larger chunk out of taxpayers' wallets. For that work, the district deserves your yes vote on its bond measure.

http://www.sherwood.k12.or.us/

2. Washington County Public Safety Measure 34-127, 42 cents for four years

This levy replaces an expired levy passed in 2000, and is crucial to the safety of everyone in the county. While there are a host of vital items this levy will fund, there is one statistic alone that merits its passage. Without the levy, the county jail and work release center cannot work at full capacity, meaning 100 forced releases of prisoners that should remain jailed each month. With the levy, there are less than five forced releases per month. Quite simply, this levy will directly work to keep criminals off Sherwood's streets.

In addition, the levy will help fund special enforcement groups like SWAT teams and a Fraud and Identity Theft Team, prosecutors, probation and parole officers, juvenile counselors and others. A piece of the funds also provide emergency shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

County Sheriff Rob Gordon has a long list of statistics that show how effective county law enforcement has been at prosecuting prisoners, reducing meth labs, etc. But even without hearing each statistic, the bottom line is the same: Measure 34-127 will keep the county safe.

http://www.co.washington.or.us/deptmts/cao/levy06/lev06let.htm

T3. Metro Measure 26-80 to "preserve natural areas, clean water; protect fish, wildlife;" $227.4 million; 19 cents

Protecting and conserving natural areas is always important, but perhaps never so crucial as right now for the greater-Portland area. In the next 20 years, demographers predict the region will gain one million more people, while Sherwood will more than double, swelling to around 30,000 residents. And as Sherwood residents know, that growth happens fast.

In addition, Measure 37, if it holds up, gives governing agencies fewer ways to protect natural areas aside from buying them. There are hundreds of projects that will benefit in the area, including five local Sherwood initiatives: acquiring and developing land for a trail in the Edy Road area; acquiring a natural area in the urban growth expansion area; developing a trail from the Senior Center to Stella Olsen Park; improvements to Stella Olsen; and developing the Cedar Creek Trail. Other regional projects include the Chehalem Ridgetop to Refuge plan to protect land in and around the Tualatin River Valley, and protecting the rocky outcrops that highlight the Tonquin Geologic Area, which includes Sherwood.

T3. Washington County Cooperative Library Services Measure 34-126, $29.5 million over four years, 17 cents

Consider these statistics from the latest library report: Patrons checked out almost 25,000 books this August, 15 percent more than last year; they checked in almost 21,000, a 12 percent increase from last year. At the same time, the library has cut staff and reduced hours due to decreased funding. They may have to make further cuts if this bond measure doesn't pass. Sherwood has a wonderful new library and this bond measure will insure that residents can actually use it.

http://www.co.washington.or.us/deptmts/cao/levy06/lev06let.htm

http://www.metro-region.org/article.cfm?articleid=16894

5. Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Bond Measure 34-133; $77.5 million; 11 cents

This is yet another bond measure necessary to deal with increased growth in the region. During the past decade, TVF and R's calls have increased by 10 percent, and the bond will go toward replacing five existing stations with safety problems; replacing older trucks and response vehicles; building two new stations; completing seismic upgrades; acquiring land for a new station and building a command and business operations facility. Sherwood is slated for a new fire apparatus.

http://www.tvfr.com/Bond/