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Voters reject school district measure

It was a rough night for the Hillsboro School District, as voters rejected Measure 34-206, the district’s proposed general obligation bond.

The measure would have authorized raising $25 million over a five-year period to purchase new instructional technology equipment, pay for safety enhancements and cover the expense of maintenance projects on school buildings around the district.

When the first batch of results were released by the Washington County Elections division at 8:01 p.m. Tuesday, the likely outcome already seemed clear as the measure was trailing 56 percent to 44 percent.

As more votes were counted during the evening, the margin narrowed only slightly. When the county released the day’s final, unofficial numbers at 11:35 p.m., the figures showed the measure going down by a 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent margin.

“Of course, it’s disappointing,” said Beth Graser, communications director for the school district. “With some of the calls I took from patrons with questions about the bond, the sense I got was, ‘Mercy — I just can’t do any more.’ It’s not a commentary on whether they support the schools or not; I just think the timing was bad, with their latest property tax statements right in front of them.”

If it had been approved, property owners within the school district would have paid approximately 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on their property each year from 2014 through 2018.

Revenues raised by the bond were slated to pay for upgrades in three primary categories: computers, projection equipment and electronic devices; safety enhancements including security cameras, interior locking doors, card-key access and line-of-sight improvements at the district’s schools; and maintenance of school facilities, including seismic upgrades and replacement of roofs.

“We’re going to have to prioritze at this point,” said Hillsboro School District Superintendent Mike Scott. “There are competing needs with class sizes and maintenance issues to take care of, and just keeping the number of teachers we have.

“We’ll be working with the board and budget committee, and we’ll get public input.”

With the defeat of the measure, school officials expressed concern about technological deficiencies that continue to worsen in the district.

“The majority of computers we have in our schools are well beyond their useful life-cycle as stand-alone computers,” explained Don Wolff, director of technology services for the Hillsboro district. “We are going to be hard-pressed to provide equipment and needed additions to our infrastructure that will support dynamic learning opportunities for our students.”

Graser said no decision has been made on whether the school district will make another attempt to get the bond approved.

“We could try it again, but I don’t know if the school board wants to do that,” she said. “There will be quite a lot of discussion.”

“The school board will discuss what our next steps are and talk to our community partners,” said Kim Strelchun, chairwoman of the Hillsboro School Board.

Strelchun noted that the results in Hillsboro were mirrored by many other school districts in Oregon.

“We saw a pattern around the entire state,” Strelchun explained. “It’s not a Hillsboro issue, it’s an Oregon issue.”

Strelchun said she believes the election results are another indication the state needs to provide more funding for schools.

“What we saw last night was that little band-aids locally are no longer enough,” she said. “We watched our neigboring districts go through the same thing.”

Both Scott and Strelchun expressed disappointment in the outcome of the election.

“The committee was pretty hopeful going in,” said Scott.

Turnout in the school district was very light: only 30.4 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the Nov. 5 election.

The Hillsboro School District is the fourth-largest school district in Oregon. It serves about 20,000 students in 36 schools.



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