Lebanon school district applies for grant

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Lebanon Community Schools has applied for the Oregon Schools Capital Improvement Match grant.
The state funds could provide an additional $8 million if voters approve a bond measure in May 2022 to improve and renovate its facilities and the Lebanon Community Pool.
“The grant is designed to help smaller communities, like Lebanon, that have a smaller tax base and
struggle to raise enough funding,” said Will Lewis, director of business services for the district. “It helps us stretch local tax dollars further and complete more school projects that are needed.”
Lebanon Community Schools is considering asking the community for a 20-year, $20 million bond to improve safety and security systems at school facilities, and to complete important maintenance projects to extend the life of the existing buildings. Once completed, those projects will bring facilities up to code and raise all school buildings to the same standards district-wide.
If voters approve a $20 million bond, then the state grant can multiply that money into as much as $28 million.
“We want a certain standard for our schools and for our community,” Superintendent Bo Yates said. “We want every one of our students to be in a safe learning environment, and that’s kind of what our community shared with us when we went out and did a survey.”
When looking at the condition of the district’s schools, they find they can do maintenance projects, such as roofing, in phases as the budget allows, Yates said.
“You go out for a bond to pay for those big ticket items,” he said. “We’re looking at trying to invest maybe $15 to $20 a square foot (for roofing) in our buildings as opposed to letting them go and then having to rebuild them at a $600-800 cost. It’s one of those deals where you have to invest and be smart about it in order to keep things going and make things right for the people in the community.”
A portion of the bond would add space in school buildings for preschool programs, providing critical opportunities for socialization, and boost kindergarten readiness and early learning opportunities for Lebanon children aged 3 to 5 years.  Another portion would be used to renovate the Lebanon Community Pool, also known as the Jan Nadig Pool, which is owned by the school district and operated by the Lebanon Aquatics District.
The state will announce the grant awards some time in mid-January, and Lebanon’s school board will discuss a resolution to place a bond on the May election ballot during its February meeting.
Lewis said the timing is right for the community to consider a bond because interest rates are low and the
district is financially solid. Once bonds have been issued, it has up to three years to spend
85% of the funding.
“We’re in an excellent position to leverage more funding from the state,” Lewis said. “This will allow us to do more for the community and its students while reducing impacts to taxpayers.”
The local bond is projected to cost the average property owner $4.23 per month, or $50.75 per year.
An average property is defined as a home with an assessed value of $175,000. The assessed value of a home is what taxes are based on and is lower than its market value.
“We want to make sure we’re good stewards of the things we’re responsible for, which are those buildings and making sure that we’re being responsible with the maintenance and upkeep,” Yates said. “We’ve done the best that we can and we just feel it’s time to make a significant investment.”
More information about a possible facilities bond can be found on the school district website at www.lebanon.k12.or.us/facilities-bond.