School district readies its case for 2008 bond vote

Cost details for a new school to be fleshed out soon
by: Garth Guibord, Superintendent Shelley Redinger (pictured) and the Oregon Trail School District will finalize details on a bond for a new school in the coming months.

The Oregon Trail School District expects to finalize the details of a bond for a new high school in the coming months, in preparation for a vote in November 2008.

The Facility Task Force, assigned to research a possible new high school, will hold a community forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, at the Sandy High School library to provide updated information, discuss options and take input from community members.

'What we've already heard from our community is that they want us to build a facility that meets our needs but isn't something outlandish,' said Julia Monteith, district communications director. 'Spend what you need to spend, but don't go over that.'

The task force is expected to meet with the school board Wednesday, Jan. 23, for a workshop to discuss the options and an estimated cost, and will make a preliminary recommendation on the bond at the Feb. 11 board meeting. A community survey will be conducted during February, and a final recommendation is tentatively scheduled for the March 10 board meeting.

District voters last dealt with a bond measure for a new high school in 1997, when 60 percent of voters opposed the 20-year, $45-million bond, with 27 percent in support and 13 percent not voting on the measure, according to Sandy Post archives. Monteith noted that $40 million of that bond - which would have set a tax rate of $2.31 per $1,000 of assessed property value - was earmarked for a new high school, while $5 million would have gone toward upgrading other district schools.

While details of the current proposed bond, including the total dollar amount, other facility improvements and the length of the bond, have not been finalized, officials note that construction costs have nearly doubled in the 10 years since the last bond proposal. A first estimate of a new high school reflects that increase.

'To put it softly, the first kind of crack at designing the high school in terms of classrooms and all the thrills, the indication is we're well at $100 million, and we need to scale back,' said Kurt McKnight, a member of the Facility Task Force. 'The bottom line is building schools today is not cheap.'

The current tax rate in the district is at $4.6397 per $1,000 of assessed property value, representing the base operating rate that is funded from the state. The district does not have a current option levy or bond.

Seattle NW, an investment banking firm that trades in bonds, presented comparison rates of other school districts at a Wednesday, Dec. 12, task force meeting. The company's findings revealed that the district's total rate (including local options and bonds) is the lowest among 23 other regional school districts, including Gresham-Barlow ($6.5262), Estacada ($5.5771), Centennial ($6.6455), David Douglas ($6.8590), Corbett ($7.6638), Gladstone ($9.1279) and Portland Public Schools ($6.5281).

The research also revealed that Oregon Trail is only one of three districts of the 23 that doesn't currently have a bond and one of two that doesn't have either a bond or local option levy. The Colton School District, with an enrollment of 722, is the other without a bond or option levy.

'That was probably the most interesting part … that Oregon Trail is behind in building and maintaining their schools, as far as tax rate,' said board Chairman John Bromley. 'We've been basically coasting on what people 30 years ago built and pay for. Now we're going to have to play catch-up.'

The last major construction of area schools occurred in 1980, when Welches Elementary and Middle schools were built.

Bond Babble

District voters approved a $1.95 million bond in 2002 for facility renovations to correct safety, health and code issues.

'Assessed value' and 'market value' of property can be very different. Check your property tax statement for more information and for your assessed value.