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St. Helens school officials approve $49 million bond

Campaign team already organzied, ready to promote benefits of bond

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - St. Helens School Board Chair Bill Amos reads a resolution seeking approval to put a bond measure on the November ballot during a meeting, Wednesday, Aug. 24. The board passed the resolution on a 4-0 vote, with one board member absent.The St. Helens School Board on Wednesday, Aug. 24, approved placement of a $49 million bond measure on the ballot in November.

During a school board meeting Wednesday, board members voted 4-0, with one member absent, to put a bond measure out to voters that would fund a remodel of the St. Helens Middle School, Columbia County Education Campus and help update technology labs at the high school.

While no public comments were made on behalf of the vote this week, and no board members spoke about the bond measure during the meeting, support for the measure from board members has been apparent for some time.

On Wednesday, Aug. 10, school district staff held a bond campaign open house to recruit volunteers to help promote the ballot measure, two weeks before the board officially approved pursuance of the bond.

School board member Kellie Smith will co-chair a campaign committee to promote the bond, along with St. Helens City Councilor Susan Conn.

Nick Federici, a political campaign manager and lobbyist based in Seattle, has volunteered to help on the committee. Federici, a former St. Helens resident, has also worked on helping several Washington school districts seek bond measures, and was invited by Superintendent Scot Stockwell to offer advice based on his expertise.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Smith said she supports passing the bond because of the benefits it would provide to staff and students in the school district.

“When you walk through our schools, you know we need one,” Smith said of the bond. “I have two kids in the district who are going to be in the schools for the next 15 years. I just don’t know why we wouldn’t.”

St. Helens staff also applied for a $4 million matching grant from the Oregon Capital Improvement Matching Program, earlier this year. Grant funding through the program is limited to the top six school districts that have applied and successfully pass a bond initiative in their school district.

The school district currently has a 20-year bond in place that will expire June 2018. Business Manager Jessica Pickett explained the district would likely structure the new 25-year bond in a way that would allow funds to be borrowed now, but not repaid until the current bond expires, which would effectively keep tax rates the same.

Smith added that several community outreach and informational events in support of the bond will soon be planned.