District to seek state matches for school repairs

The Lebanon School Board opened discussion last week about seeking a bond that could leverage matching state funds to complete maintenance projects throughout the district’s 11 buildings.

According to the Oregon Department of Education’s website, the state will match local bonds up to $4 million on a one-to-one basis.

“The way it works is it’s a bond match that’s designed for communities like Lebanon to kind of entice local communities to support local school bonds for maintenance or expansion,” Supt. Bo Yates told the board during its regular meeting Aug. 8. “If we were able to pass a $4 million bond, they would match it, and we’d have $8 million to spend on maintenance and upgrades. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

Based on its demographics, Yates said, Lebanon would be a good match for the grant program.

The state awarded six grants totaling $19.7 million, matching $48.5 million in local bonds, in May.

“We’ve been working on a long-range facility plan,” Yates said. “We met on July 18, an ad hoc committee, to discuss what condition our buildings were in.

The report that came back showed that some of these numbers are large. They’re based off of putting those buildings back into like new condition as opposed to getting those buildings in a condition that we can use in the next 10 to 20 years. My concern is for the actual framework of the buildings, the systems, the roofs, the floors, the windows and those things.”

Among the costs, Cascades Ele-mentary would cost $3.5 million to make it like new through remodeling, Yates said. To do that districtwide would cost $37.5 million.

Excluding the newest campuses, Riverview and Pioneer, replacement of the buildings would cost $22 million, Yates said.

Lacomb School needs a new roof, Yates said. The high school needs a majority of its roof replaced. Seven Oak Middle School needs a new roof.

The Aquatic District, which leases the community pool, has been looking at a bond, Yates said. He is trying to work with the district for the sake of the taxpayers and include the pool in the school district’s bond process.

For a little more than $1 million, the district could complete maintenance and restore the pool to excellent condition, he said. A $6 million bond, with a $4 million matching grant, could include $1 million for the pool and $9 million for the schools.

Board Chairman Tom Oliver said the Aquatic District can take care of some things, like filter replacement and resurfacing the deck, but it doesn’t have a large enough tax rate to pay for major capital improvements.

He said a $6 million bond with a matching grant would take care of maintenance and get another 15 to 20 years out of the buildings.

“We’re not talking about significant changes to the ways we use the space, the look and the feel,” Oliver said. “It’s not real sexy stuff. It’s just keeping things together. When we look at that $37.5 million, I don’t think we’re in a position to even have a conversation about that with the community. I don’t see that as even a starting place. We scale that back and get something much smaller, the bond that we sold in 2000 will retire in 2030. Once we get closer to that would be the time to start talking about the next major capital plan.”

Oliver said it’s too late to seek a bond in the fall and it’ll be a “big lift” to get it on the ballot by May, noting that the big pieces needed to do it are in place.

“One of the only things that makes it palatable is the matching,” said Mike Martin, board member.

“I agree. I don’t think we’d be in the position, I don’t think we’d be having the conversation,” Oliver said.

The large numbers for making buildings “like new” or replacing them are “really just a reminder that we’re constantly falling behind,” Martin said.

Oliver said he would like to have a more in-depth conversation about a proposed bond levy in September or October.

Yates and Oliver said they have talked with a couple of firms about providing communications services during the bond process to improve the district’s engagement with the community, parents, students and staff. The initial cost in a proposal by one was $4,700 per month. Ongoing, the functions would shift over to district resources, reducing the cost of a consultant.

Yates said he would have a proposal at the Sept. 12 board meeting, which will be held in the Santiam Travel Station, 750 S. Third St.

Capacity will be another issue the district will need to address, Oliver said.

“We spent a lot of time the past couple of years going K-6 to K-5, a couple K-8s, looking at enrollment at Seven Oak. Ultimately, we’re going to have to look at that again and figure out how to use those buildings and probably have some difficult conversations about open enrollment, about whether we should all be K-6 in town. Right now, we have one outlier, and that’s primarily because we allow open enrollment.”

“We’re trying to reduce that open enrollment just by simply going back, and if you have brothers or  sisters going to school, you’re allowed to open enroll,” Yates said. “Other than that we’re not letting people just move for their own purposes unless there’s some reason that it’s truly important.”

“The reason, historically, we were in favor of open enrollment was because we had signature schools and every school ran differently,” he said. “Now that we’ve moved toward that more standardized model, it’s less of a need.”

Yates said the district would have that conversation after getting enrollment numbers this year and then projecting enrollment out another five or six years.

Oliver said officials have had some discussion about a construction excise tax, charging some $1.50 per square foot on all new construction in the district. To implement that tax requires some of the same work as the matching grant.

The district will want to have that conversation as well, he said. Many communities have had significant residential development recently. Lebanon has had some, but not as much as Adair Village, Corvallis and Albany, for example. Development in Lebanon has been held up by a lack of sewer capacity.

The city is moving forward with an extension to the Westside Interceptor line, he said.

“If that happens, there will be a substantial opportunity for residential development over the next decade. If that’s the case, one, that’s going to put pressure on us. That gets to where we’re going to be in 2025 or 2030, looking at capacity, so we need to have those conversations about how we’re using those existing facilities, but we need to be able to be prepared for that potential population growth and making sure those that are coming in as part of that growth are contributing to the expense that we’re going to face to expand our facilities.”

Present at the board meeting were board members Oliver, Martin, Tammy Schilling and Richard Borden. Nick Brooks was absent.

In other business, the board:

  Elected Oliver chairman and Brooks vice chairman.

Approved the sale of the project house built by the Lebanon High School construction class at 901 W. Vine St. for $262,500.

Passed a routine annual resolution designating various duties to district officials. For example, Yates is named the budget officer, hearings officer and chief administrative officer. It also names the official auditor and other services “of record.”

Held the second reading of policy updates governing admissions, interdistrict transfers, graduation requirements, public charter schools and interscholastic activities.

Approved the hiring of William Bower, counselor; Ashley Brand, elementary; Kyle Calder, business; Nicholas Chapman, STEAM; Sarah Donahue, elementary; Andrew Evans, PE and health; Erin Forrest, elementary; Jeremy Gibson, language arts; Laura Hornstein, counselor; Anne Klos, elementary; Joy Lin, speech language pathologist; Tanya Maxwell, counselor; Colin McHill, special education; Noah Miles, alternative education; Elisabeth Moore, elementary; Kimberly Mynar, elementary; Greg Nicosia, special education; Ethan Novak, elementary; Tabitha Ramirez, elementary; Ashton Rucinski, elementary; Joan Swafford, science; Madeline Tait, elementary; Rachel Woods, elementary; Craig Swanson, high school principal; Angela Landy, associate principal.

Approved the temporary hire of Shayna Kennedy, elementary teacher, and Adam Lenz, science teacher.

The district has five open positions, said Assistant Supt. Jennifer Meckley. Two or three are temporary to cover temporary leave by permanent employees. The district has hired 27 certified and administrative employees this year. Last year, it hired 40 to 45.