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On the chopping block

Facilities committee cuts $51 million from initial bond plan

by: SHELBY CASE/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Powell Butte Elementary School (top) and Ochoco Elementary School (above) have been recommended for replacement by the Crook County School District Facilities Review and Recommendation Committee.

It's a political question of affordability and what voters will find palatable.
   That's what the Citizens Facilities Review and Recommendations Committee has been wrestling with in recent months in assessing school needs. Meeting Monday evening, the committee recommended a $66 million bond to the Crook County School Board.
   The board is scheduled to hear the report at its Jan. 14 meeting. The 22-page summary of recommendations comes after the committee examined the current conditions of district buildings, and whether to go out for a bond. Now it is up to the school board to determine whether to go before voters with a school bond, and whether this should be next May or November.
   In all after about 18 months of work, the committee has chopped $51 million in recommended repairs and replacements. The final report from the Design/Site Subcommittee, approved and accepted by the full committee on Aug. 6, 2007, called for $117 million in expenditures. But before receiving the updated assessed value from the Crook County assessor in October, the Finance Subcommittee had Seattle Northwest develop other bond structures and the committee believed voters would not approve such a vast sum of bond money.
   For the 2008 bond, taxpayers would pay $1.68 per $1,000 of assessed value. The existing 1995 bond has a rate of 82 cents per support for non-instructional projects at CCHS.
   In an interesting twist, although individual projects - other than the CCHS non-instructional projects - were supported residents were reluctant to pay for the overall packages of projects.
   "This was true of both the $66 million proposal and the $76 million proposal," according to the report.
   According to the results of several different questions, support for both proposals was less than 50 percent.
   "When asked near the beginning of the survey, only 43 percent of respondents favored the $76 million proposal," according to Citizens Facilities Review and Recommendations Committee Chairman John Sundell and others. Only 34 percent of respondents favored the $66 million proposal. But committee members say that is misleading because 22 percent of the 56 percent opposing the $66 million bond preferred the $76 million bond instead.
   "It's reasonable to expect that this 12 percent, if faced with the choice of voting yes or $66 million or voting no and getting nothing, would vote in favor of a $66 million proposal," according to the summary.
   After adjusting for the respondents who preferred the $76 million proposal, 46 percent favored the projects included in the $66 million bond package. But that is still below the 50 percent plus figure needed to pass a bond.
   Sundell and other committee members also said that a consistent response in opposing both the $66 million and the $76 million bond proposals was that "it costs too much." However, as with any construction bond measure, because of inflation and other costs, construction costs increase over time.
   For example, committee members referred to the 1994 measure.
   Most of the $20 million raised in that bond levy was used to build the current Crook County High School.
   "Today, the same building at the same site would cost more than $55 million," committee members said.
   Norris also presented information to the committee on some "If you knew" poll questions that were presented.
   "If you knew the proposed bond measure would protect the community's investment in school buildings by making necessary improvements such as roof, electrical, heating systems to Crooked River Elementary, Cecil Sly Elementary, Paulina School, the middle school and other district facilities, would you favor or oppose the $76 million bond measure?" was one question.
   "I'm very pleased to see from the survey results that a large percentage of the community understands the facilities challenges our schools face and the importance of addressing the situation now," Norris said. "The survey also confirms the priorities and conclusions the facilities committee has come to after 18 months of research, consideration, and debate are in line with those of the community."