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Gresham-Barlow bond sees rising interest rates

Residents to vote on $210 million bond in November


Estimates of what it would cost taxpayers to fund a $210 million bond for the Gresham-Barlow School District are increasing, largely due to rising interest rates.

The owner of a home with an assessed value of $167,000 was forecast to pay $17 a month if voters approve the bond on the November ballot. That equals $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

But with historically low interest rates creeping up, those numbers also are rising.

Under the latest cost projections, the owner of a home with an assessed value of $167,350 now can expect to pay $22 a month, or $1.56 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The 25-year bond measure would fund improvements to 18 of the district’s 19 schools, with the exception of Damascus Middle School. The grades 6-8 middle school would close and merge with which K-5 Deep Creek Elementary School to become a K-8 school.

The bond also includes technology upgrades, better gyms, play fields, performing arts space, new roofs, siding, electrical and plumbing systems. Seismic upgrades and security improvements also are included.

Nearly half the bond would pay to rebuild, repurpose or remodel three schools — Gresham High School, West Gresham Elementary School and Deep Creek Elementary School. In addition, the bond would fund removal of 38 portable classrooms at elementary schools and expand buildings to accommodate full-day kindergarten, which is expected to start in two years.

Last school year, when the $17-a-month estimate was made, interest rates were at historic lows of about 2.5 percent, said Jerry Jones, the district’s chief financial officer. Now they are closer to 3.5 percent.

Even so, the district is building in a conservative cushion with its latest cost estimates, basing them on 4.5 percent interest rates in case they continue to go up.

Although rates are increasing, they are still considered low, said Superintendent Jim Schlachter.

“This is bargain basement,” Schlachter said. “We’re talking very small numbers compared to what bonds used to cost.”

When Gresham voters approved a $42 million school district bond in 2000, interest rates were between 6 percent and 7 percent, he said. “Even if our worst expectation of 4 percent is realized, for a taxpayer, these are killer good interest rates.”




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