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New school bond has price tag of up to $125 million

Voters will decide on measure in November
by: Mar,

Oregon Trail School District voters now have a price tag for the bond that's coming to the November ballot.

In a public meeting at the Sandy High School commons Thursday night, Jan. 10, the district's Facilities Task Force announced that it would recommend a bond of between $110 million and $125 million for a new high school.

That would equate to an increase in property taxes in the district of $2.23 to $3.03 per $1,000 of assessed property value, depending on the final cost and duration of the bond.

Taxpayers in the Oregon Trail School District currently pay $4.6397 per $1,000 of assessed property value for operating costs. The district does not have any current bond or levy debt.

'In the next 11 months we are going to be making decisions that are not going to affect one or two of our students in our district, not one or two hundred, not a thousand, but … thousands of kids in our community now and in generations to come,' said task force member DJ Anderson. 'Whether you're a parent or not, as far as I'm concerned, we are all parents in this community.'

The bond also will contain approximately $2.5 million for 35 projects at the other schools in the district, which will address immediate safety, health and code issues and protect existing facilities from deterioration.

District voters approved a $1.95 million bond in 2002 for facility renovations but rejected a 20-year, $45 million bond for a new high school in 1997. The failed bond measure would have set a tax rate of $2.31 per $1,000 of assessed property value, with $5 million earmarked for upgrading other schools. The last major school construction was Welches Elementary School in 1980.

'If you look at the chronological order of our schools and how they were built and the renovations that went to Sandy High School, there was a trend with our forefathers that about every 10 years, they put a lot of money into our schools,' said Kurt McKnight, a member of the task force.

'We've been over 20 years now since we've done that,' he added. 'I think we owe it to the current generation and the next generation to work diligently to pass this bond and leave our legacy behind this new high school.'

McKnight said the new high school would be built for an optimum capacity of 1,600 to 1,800 students. The current high school has an enrollment of approximately 1,400 students - an estimated 200 to 250 students over capacity - and demographic trends don't point to a sizable increase in enrollment in the near future.

While final details on the bond will be determined in the next couple months, architectural plans for the new school wouldn't be drafted until after the bond passes, if it does.

Task force members noted that a new high school would include all the existing offerings, including vocational and technical education.

'In every scenario in building a new high school, we will have all of the existing programs that we have today,' said Anderson. 'We lose nothing.'

McKnight also noted that an advisory committee of citizens will be formed to voice opinions on designing a new high school.

Oregon Trail School District Superintendent Shelley Redinger reported that the district is investigating a number of options on how to use the current Sandy High School should a new school be built. Those include partnerships with Mt. Hood Community College for a satellite campus, the Sandy Fire District for a training facility, consolidating district administration offices and alternative education programs.

'That is something we really need to think carefully about,' Redinger said. 'A lot of the different areas in this site are still functional, but some areas are not.'

The task force is expected to meet with the school board Wednesday, Jan. 23, for a workshop to discuss and refine the cost and timeframe of the bond. The task force will make its preliminary proposal regarding the bond at the Monday, Feb. 11, school board meeting, and its final recommendation at the March board meeting.

The district has its work cut out for it in the coming months to make the case to voters - particularly voters without children attending schools in the district - that the price is worth it and that the investment will be worth it.

An anonymous commenter on the Sandy Post Web site wrote that they needed to see 'a clear and compelling vision' for the facility 'that will deliver state-of-the-art education experiences for our kids well into the next couple of decades.'

The commenter also wanted assurance that the current teachers, school board and administrators will be 'good stewards' of the money, and that the tension that led to two teachers' strikes is a thing of the past.

'This isn't going to happen on its own; people are going to have campaign for this,' said Don Hokanson, co-chairman of Value Oregon Trail Education (VOTE), a political action committee that supports building a new high school. 'We're going to have to convince our neighbors and our friends, or we're going to do the same thing we did last time, and then the next time we bring this up, it's going to be $200 million.'

For more information, visit www.oregontrailschools.com or www.valueoregontraileducation.com.

Sandy Post Editor Marcus Hathcock contributed to this report.


Additional costs?

Source: Seattle-Northwest

Analysis of possible bond options (other options exist)

$110 million - 25 years

Average rate: $2.56

Total interest cost: $104,842,393

$110 million - 30 years

Average rate: $2.26

Total interest cost: $136,638,183

$125 million - 25 years

Average rate: $2.90

Total interest cost: $119,137,223

$125 million - 30 years

Average rate: $2.57

Total interest cost: $155,271,018