Election environment proves tough for school district bonds
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Beaverton School Board member Becky Tymchuk said this year’s bond campaign was “unique.” Heated campaigns for governor, the Legislature and Congress dominated ad time, yard space and public attention.
“It’s been really hard to get above the noise,” Tymchuk said. The Beaverton School District succeeded, though, passing its $723 million bond.
Fifteen school districts and community colleges were seeking bonds or levies in Tuesday’s election. Six passed, eight failed and one was too close to call in preliminary results Wednesday morning. A new Oregon law allows ballots postmarked the day of the election to be counted up to a week later, delaying final tallies.
The districts were fighting an uphill battle against inflation fears, the perception of plentiful COVID-19 emergency funds and the usual tax resistance.
On the plus side, school leaders could point to state matching money to increase the value of a yes vote. Linn-Benton and Tillamook Bay community colleges each qualified for $8 million matching grants, and every school district seeking a bond was eligible for an Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program grant.
The La Grande School District was asking for $4.8 million, with a $4 million matching grant to nearly double its bond’s value. Voters approved with roughly 59% of the vote. The district plans to replace an activity building, among other things.
Beaverton passed the largest bond, $723 million to rebuild and modernize facilities, with roughly 54% of the vote. Plans include replacing the 105-year-old Beaverton High School.
The tiny Amity School District northwest of Salem, though, proposed the largest increase per household. Its $29.4 million bond to remodel the high school and create a middle school on the campus would raise taxes an estimated $3.16 per $1,000 of assessed value. As of Wednesday morning, it was losing by 19 votes out of more than 1,000 cast.