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School board mulls new money request

Voters could see a local option levy for Hillsboro schools on the November ballot.

The Hillsboro School Board Tuesday night mulled the idea of a local option tax levy that would help fund facilities repairs and safety and technology upgrades at school buildings.

One year after rejecting the idea of a levy to help bolster the district’s general fund, board members reacted more positively to the idea of a levy that would fund specific upgrades and fixes.

“I think we have an opportunity here to present something that has a possibility of passing,” said board member Carolyn Ortman, cautioning that the levy should be very specific in what the money would pay for.

“We’d have to be very clear in our messaging,” said board member Kim Strelchun.

The district has a long list of high-priority repairs and safety upgrades at its facilities totaling about $15 million, said Superintendent Mike Scott. Those repairs have been postponed due to lack of funding. The district faces another $8 million in cuts in the upcoming 2013-14 budget, the fifth consecutive year of cuts the district has had to make.

In addition, a technology report to the board earlier this spring indicated that more than half of the district’s computers are at least 6 years old and in need of replacement, along with a vital need for technology infrastructure upgrades.

“If we don’t have the technology available, I don’t know how we’re going to follow through on new (education) standards,” said board member Rebecca Lantz.

“It’s tough for me to sell a local option levy on safety and technology while at the same time ... cutting (school days),” said board member Monte Akers.

No action was taken at the work session, but board members requested staff gather additional information on specific levy numbers and report back on a local option levy. If the board proceeds, the levy would likely be on the November 2013 ballot. If approved by voters, funds would not be available until the 2014-15 school year.

Board members also discussed the future need for construction bonds four to five years down the road to address growth in the planned South Hillsboro area. Demographic studies show the district could gain an additional 4,000-6,000 students as the South Hillsboro area is built out.

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