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Corbett schools will ask voters for $11.9 million

The Corbett School Board is asking voters to approve an $11.9 million bond in May to improve the district’s buildings.

The board voted unanimously at a meeting Wednesday, Feb. 17, to put the bond before voters. “The amount in this bond is reasonable,” said board Vice Chairman David Gorman.

The bond funds will be used to replace the aging middle school building on Historic Columbia River Highway, for safety improvements and to correct accessibility and other violations.

If the bond passes, the funds will be bolstered by a $4 million matching grant from the state. If it fails, the funds will be given to another school district.

The board discussed at length how many projects could be completed with the $11.9 million plus a $4 million grant.

“In reality, we are choosing a number but not specific projects,” said board member Michelle Vo.

Replacing the middle school has been a controversial topic in Corbett for years. Some have wanted to try to renovate the historic building. But others argue that a new building would be less expensive and would serve students better.

“It is not fiscally responsible for us to do it (renovate the middle school),” said Todd Mickalson, board chair.

The bond will cost Corbett taxpayers $1.78 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $356 a year for a house assessed at $200,000.

Trying to find a bond amount that taxpayers will support and also will get the maximum number of projects completed in the district is always a difficult balance.

“It is like reading tea leaves,” said Randy Trani, district superintendent.

The $4 million in matching funds come from the Oregon Department of Education as directed by Senate Bill 447 passed in 2015. The bill directed ODE to make the grants from a $123 million pool and provide technical assistance to school districts trying to improve their facilities.

Corbett has not had any luck in the last few years convincing voters to pass a school bond.

Voters most recently turned down Corbett in November 2014 for an $8.5 million bond. Corbett voters also rebuffed a $9.4 million bond in May 2014 and a $15 million bond in November 2013.