May 20 election will determine new funding for schools

A unanimous vote by the Beaverton School District Board of Directors puts a $680 million bond measure to fund new schools, technology and major building renovations officially in the hands of district voters.

With one member absent, the board with minimal discussion voted 6-0 at its Monday night business meeting to send the proposal to the May 20 ballot.

The bond measure targets 27 projects, including a new high school in the proposed South Cooper Mountain development area, a new elementary school in North Bethany, replacing the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy, and rebuilding Vose, William Walker and Hazeldale elementary schools. Bond funds would also go toward land purchases, enhanced security and technology and repairing schools throughout the district.

The bond proposal includes $109 million for the new high school, $3 million to acquire around 10 acres for an elementary school in the South Cooper Mountain area, $25 million for a new North Bethany elementary school and $51.6 million for an 850-student middle school on the former Teufel Nursery property adjacent to the fledgling Timberland housing development.

Based on the retirement of bonds from a 2006 bond measure — the Great Recession precluded a four-year follow-up bond in 2010 — a new bond measure this year would not increase what homeowners currently pay for school bonds.

Following earlier discussion about increasing by 7 cents the $2.11 per $1,000 of property value to raise expected revenue by $30 million, the bond committee stuck with the board’s recommended lower amount.

Board Chairwoman Mary VanderWeele praised the bond program on Monday and supported recommendations Superintendent Jeff Rose proposed in January.

“I thought the choices we made are fiscally responsible and represent a really good balance between new (facilities), expanded capacity and advancements in technology,” she said. “I’m really excited about the technology and getting some of that in the classrooms.

“The work’s just beginning,” she added of the two-year process to develop the bond proposal, “but this is a milestone.”

Board member LeeAnn Larsen stressed the bond projects are not luxury items, but fundamentals for a functional district.

“It’s important that the community know this isn’t a wish list,” she said. “This is a need list. If we’re going to have enough capacity for children coming through our doors, we need this bond.”

Since the 2006 bond, the district’s enrollment has increased by more than 2,600 students, for a total exceeding 39,000, according to district officials. The District Facilities Planning Committee reported four of the district’s five comprehensive high schools are near or beyond capacity. The Portland State University’s Population Center and the district project 5,400 additional students will enroll in Beaverton schools by 2025.

Rose emphasized the fundamental safety and maintenance aspects the bond measure represents.

“Some of the realistic issues in the bond are very necessary, such as roofs and turf that’s safe for students to play on,” he said. “If we don’t have the capital for that, years from now we’re going to have a major dilemma on things like a roof versus staffing. And I don’t think Beaverton wants to be in that place.”

During the meeting’s visitor comments period, David Strayer, the parent of Vose Elementary School students, encouraged the board to move quickly on the bond before current property tax rates return to pre-bond levels.

“The time to get the bond out is now,” he said. “If we wait or hesitate, there’s going to be a dip, (which later would) create an impression of an increase in taxes. So now is the time.”

Strayer indicated he isn’t sure how voters will respond to the bond proposal this time around.

“I think it all depends on the message that people want to hear and the message they get to hear,” he said during a break in the meeting. “A lot of parents are passionate about schools, but not everyone gets to win on this one. There’s a whole bunch of people that need stuff, and there isn’t enough money to go around. I think if (bond plans) got too aggressive, it would lose.

“Passing this bond will not only be good for students in Beaverton,” Strayer added, “but it will be good for the community of Beaverton.”

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