Senate Bill 5505 is the legislative mechanism for authorizing billions of dollars in bonds for projects in the next biennium. Two highly popular K-12 bond programs would get $280 million of that: $160 million for seismic upgrades for schools and $120 million for an infrastructure bond-matching program.
Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton), surveying the full hearing for the May 12 meeting of the Joint Ways and Means Capital Construction Subcommittee, promised swift action.
“You’re looking at the fastest gavel in the Senate,” Girod said before strictly limiting testimony time.
Testimony was entirely in support.
The investments over the past two years made by the bond programs “have begun to make a serious dent in the facilities needs of our K-12 schools and have made an immeasurably positive impact across the state for students and local communities,” said Morgan Allen, deputy director of policy and advocacy for the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. “But there is still a significant need for further investments.”
A panel of school superintendents gave specific examples of the programs’ effects at the district level. Jim Schlachter, superintendent of the Gresham-Barlow School District, praised the impact of the bond-matching program in his district.
“The November 2016 school bond passed with 51 percent of the votes,” he testified, attributing the narrow passage directly to the $8 million state match the district stood to receive on the $291 million bond. “That is profound local return on a state investment.”
Gerry Washburn, Roseburg Public Schools superintendent, testified about the bond matching program’s benefits for his district.
Roseburg Public Schools have received five seismic grants to date, totaling $6.9 million, Washburn said. Those grant funds have been used to repair and upgrade roofs, gyms and other school facilities statewide. Those improvements, he said, “reflect better understanding of risks than when the buildings were originally constructed.” He said the grants allowed the district to make crucial seismic upgrades that “would not have happened without this grant opportunity.”
OSBA attended the hearing in support of the programs but did not testify because of time constraints. OSBA will continue to lobby in support of the bill.