Four school districts, community college find winning bond messages
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
The coronavirus created a challenging election season, but Perrydale School District leaders, at least, were happy their bond didn’t pass.
November looks more rewarding for them, thanks to a state matching funds program.
Lane Community College and four school districts passed bonds Tuesday. Pendleton School District’s local option levy and three school district bonds failed.
Statewide closures cut off typical campaigning events while widespread layoffs made it tougher to ask for tax money.
Some districts saw the writing on the wall in March and pulled their bonds before the deadline to get off the ballot. The Oregon Department of Education, acknowledging the unique circumstances, allowed districts that were eligible for spring election Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching grants to shift their eligibility to November.
The change came too late for Perrydale to get off the spring ballot, but it did request its OSCIM eligibility be moved to November. That put Perrydale in a weird bind, asking its community northwest of Salem not to vote for the bond, according to Superintendent Eric Milburn. The bond failed with more than 80% of voters opposed.
If Perrydale had won Tuesday, it would not have received the OSCIM program’s 100% matching funds for its $3.4 million bond. Now the district can try again in November and receive the matching funds.
Canby School District, which is eligible for $4.6 million in OSCIM funds, was among the districts that powered forward to victory but had to change its approach.
“When we put this on the ballot, we were in a completely different time,” school board member Sara Magenheimer said.
The board decided its original campaign plan was no longer possible, nor the best use of staff and financial resources. The district south of Portland shifted to a low-cost informational campaign through digital messages, she said.
The bond’s main spending buckets of health, safety and technology are even more needed now, she said. Nearly 60% of voters approved.
Centennial School District hung in there because part of its campaign pitch, that tax rates would stay the same, relied on passage this spring. Waiting until November would have allowed the district’s old bond to drop off, making a new bond look like a tax increase.
With Tuesday’s positive vote, district taxpayers’ rate will remain unchanged and Centennial will receive $65 million, with about $7.5 million from the OSCIM program.
Voters also approved Glendale and St. Helens school districts' bonds. Voters rejected Roseburg and Harney County school districts’ bonds.