Nov. 3 ballot issue would add $25-a-year tax on $200,000 home to finance school renovation project
By Mark Esper
A bond measure to help finance an $11.8 million overhaul of the school and gym will go to voters on the Nov. 3 ballot, the Silverton school board decided Monday in a unanimous vote.
The measure will ask voters to approve a levy of $115,000 a year to finance a 20-year, $1.2 million bond to help cover the school district’s portion of the project cost.
The expected mill levy of 1.613 would translate into $25.68 a year property tax increase on a home valued at $200,000, or $38.52 a year for a home valued at $300,000, school officials said.
That mill levy would be adjusted slightly to keep the annual levy at $115,000 district-wide.
The Silverton school board held special meetings Thursday and Monday to finalize preparations for the ballot measure.
School Superintendent Kim White reviewed how the school district reached its decision to renovate the 98-year-old school building and the nearby gym, which was built as a WPA project in the late 1930s.
She said cost estimates showed that building a whole new school would be comparable to the cost of the renovation project.
And school board president George Foster said on the financing end, it made more sense to overhaul the existing buildings. He said the district was able to round up funding for historic preservation and for making the current building more energy-efficient. Those grants would not have been available if the district were to start from scratch on a new building.
“We would have to come up with more money,” Foster said. He said the overhaul project provides “the best bang for the buck.”
Sue Morris, who is overseeing the construction project for the school district, said it “is pretty significant” that the state provided a grant covering 80 percent of the project cost, while other districts had to settle for a 60-40 match.
Another advantage to renovation, school officials noted, is capacity.
The school was built to handle 200 to 250 students, even though the current student population is closer to 65.
“If in 30 years it (the student population) goes to 175, we’ll still have a building for that situation,” Foster said. “You’d have a hard time justifying building a school for 200 kids if you were building a new school.”
He mentioned suggestions he has heard that the district could “build a little hut for 65 students.”
“The board is thinking far enough ahead,” Foster said. “We don’t want to ask for more money.”
The current financing picture for the overhaul project looks like this:
BEST grant: $9.5 million
District match: $2.4 million
The school district intends to cover its matching obligation as follows:
DOLA grant: $150,000
State Historical Society grant: $342,188
School district funds: $500,000
Other private grant sources: $177,543.
Mill levy: $1.2 million
White said that after crunching the numbers, she concluded “in our current situation it would be pretty rough” to finance the $1.2 million shortfall in matching funds without asking for a bond levy.
“I really don’t think we can come up with $1.2 million in grant funding, even though people seem to really like Silverton,” White told the school board.
White noted that the school district needs to demonstrate it has the matching funds by January.
“If the bond doesn’t pass, we would be scrambling,” White said. “It’s pretty critical we put a lot of effort behind this for it to pass. I don’t see other viable options for coming up with that difference. The state wants to see a commitment from the community. I do think they want this to go through. They want this to be a successful project.”
And school officials pointed to the grant funding lined up as being too good to pass up.
“The costs will be greater if we don’t go for the whole ball of wax,” Foster said.
“And I agree,” said school board member Paul Zimmerman. “We’ll never get a shot at this kind of (grant) money again.”
“We know there are deficiencies and we have to correct them,” said school board member Cliff Pohlman. “We need to use the grants to get it all done.”