200 community leaders invited to learn, share opinions

Are the communities of West Linn and Wilsonville interested in supporting another capital improvement bond for the school district?

That’s the question district officials asked for the first time in public Feb. 22, when the district’s long-range planning committee (LRPC) hosted a bond summit at West Linn High School.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Wilsonville's middle school, Inza R. Wood, is over capacity and relying on portable classrooms. The district owns property suitable for construction of a middle school and a primary school.The district is considering whether to place a new bond measure on the ballot in the future. The district’s current $98 million bond measure was approved by voters in 2008 and expires at the end of the current school year.

The event was intended to help district officials gauge public support for a potential bond and to learn which projects would figure as priorities with the public. The district has identified its own priorities for capital improvements, including but not limited to the following large projects.

New middle school in Wilsonville: The district owns property suitable for construction of a middle school and a primary school. Wilsonville’s middle school, Inza R. Wood, is over capacity and relying on portable classrooms.

Replacement primary school in West Linn: The oldest school building in the district, Sunset, has been identified as needing replacement due to the size and scope of the structural upgrades the existing building would require.

Permanent facility for Arts and Technology High School: The alternative school currently leases space on Town Center Loop in Wilsonville.

Woodley“I don’t think there’s anything on our capital improvement list that the public doesn’t already know anything about, one way or another,” said Tim Woodley, director of operations. “A new school in Wilsonville? We’ve been talking about that for eight, 10 years. A new school for Sunset? We’ve had task forces ... and reports that tell us why replacement is less expensive than just fixing stuff.”

The 2008 bond paid for the district’s two new primary schools, Lowrie in Wilsonville and Trillium Creek in West Linn, as well as remodeling of libraries and kitchens at existing schools, athletic field improvement, district-wide technology investments and the renovation of the district’s administration building on Stafford Road.

The district sent summit invitations to 150 to 200 selected community members. They include members of various education groups, including the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation, Music and Arts Partners, community athletics organizations and others. School principals, teachers and even some students attended, while officials from the cities of West Linn and Wilsonville also were in the mix along with local business leaders.

And of course, district-affiliated figures, including the school board, members of the long-range planning committee and Superintendent Bill Rhoades were there.

Woodley said the summit was intended to connect with a wide range of people — not only school supporters likely to support a possible bond measure.

“We are not targeting ‘yes’ votes. That is not our purpose,” Woodley said. “We’re intentionally bringing a mix of all our communities so that all voices can be heard. We don’t want to put something on a ballot just because we have all ‘yes’ vote people. There is integrity in finding people that can come and support their views.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - The oldest school building in the district, Sunset, has been identified as needing replacement due to the size and scope of the structural upgrades the existing building would require.The bond summit follows a model the school district has used successfully in at least two previous bond cycles, he added. The district will present data gleaned over a long period of time, mainly its long-range plan and assorted project lists, to district patrons. It is then hoped that those who attend will pass information learned to others in the community.

In all, it’s “a pretty effective way of getting information out to the community,” said Woodley. “It helps them be involved in the process of planning for the future needs of the district.”

District officials emphasize the only aim of the summit is to share information.

“No decisions are made now,” Woodley said. “Through the summit, information is gathered that helps the board make a decision.”

Following the summit, the long-range planning committee will analyze the data and present its findings to the school board. After that, the district may choose to perform additional opinion polling.

“It’s a fun event; there’s no bad news in it,” Woodley said. “It’s the community talking about possibilities for kids. ... This is not about getting support for a bond. This is about getting information to a community about the district’s needs. There’s nothing political about this. It’s information back and forth.”

Budgeting and bonds

The business office of the West Linn-Wilsonville School District is deep into its budget season. The district’s budget committee will present versions of the budget to the public this spring, and the board will vote in a final budget in June.

The 2013-14 budget includes approximately $6.8 million for building care and upkeep. That includes things like utilities, vehicles, equipment and the wages of groundskeepers and building custodians. Halfway through the school year, about $3.8 million of that budget has been spent.

Because the current bond expires at the end of this school year, the 2014-15 budget likely will include about $1 million more for care and upkeep. What it won’t include is any large projects such as major improvements or construction.

“Without a bond, you don’t take on new buildings, but you still have to take on maintenance projects,” Business Manager Doug Middlestetter said.

Maintenance might include small projects, like painting a classroom or repairing a window, as well as larger ones, like repairing a roof or replacing a boiler.

“If we have a bond going, the bond anticipates and takes care of” those larger expenses, Middlestetter said.

The impact of the bond’s expiration will be somewhat cushioned by the way the state distributes money to school districts. In the first year of the biennial budget, districts receive 49 percent of state funding. Because this is the second year of the biennium, WL-WV will receive 51 percent.

That good news is tempered by rising costs for fuel and utilities as well as by negotiated salary increases, Middlestetter said.

“All of our operating costs will be more in the second year,” he said. “The bottom line is, we will be on a tight budget and we will have to do more with less.

“The community has been so supportive of our bonds,” he added. “Our risk is a little lower the first year out of a bond than if we were five years out of a bond.”

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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