School Board approves placing bond on May 16 ballot

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
The school board approved a resolution Thursday, Feb. 10, to place a measure on the ballot for the May 17 election calling for support of a $20 million general obligation bond for facility repairs, including a pool upgrade.
If approved by voters through a simple majority, the bond guarantees a $4.3 million grant awarded to the district through the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program.
Supt. Bo Yates started the conversation by pointing out that one of his first challenges when he came on at the Lebanon Community School District was to come up with a plan addressing deferred maintenance needs. A long-range facilities plan was put together in 2018 to determine each building’s needs, and since then some grant monies have helped address some of those needs.
“We just want to be responsible with the buildings that we have in the community,” Yates said. “This is not something that is a passion or something that we’re just trying to do. It’s something that’s necessary. I can’t overemphasize that.”
When the district put out a survey to gauge community support for the proposed bond measure, results indicated 65 percent showed support, and what was most important to those surveyed was basic maintenance, building that are warm and secure, and security, he said.
Earlier, the Lebanon Aquatic District was considering going out for a $20 to $30 million bond on its own, but, Yates said, he felt it would be better to team up with them to make it happen. A state matching grant provided an opportunity for the LCSD to increase funds for facility repairs, and the district would use a portion of the bond to upgrade the pool.

THIS CHART lists projects that would be included in the Facilities Bond Proposal that will be on the May 17 ballot.

Looking at a list of general upgrade needs for each school, Yates pointed out the bond would not come close to fulfilling every need, “but it’s necessary for us to do the most important things,” he said. Of the $20 million bond plus $4.3 million grant, $10 million would be applied toward the pool, which the district thought was an appropriate amount to do the work needed.
“The litany of projects is overwhelming, and what I don’t see is a price tag that goes with either one,” said Board Member Tammy Schilling. “As we proceed with this, I would like to see some numbers that go with the litany of things, and some prioritization that is not binding whatsoever.”
Board member Richard Borden said the $14.3 million for renovations seems like it would be just enough to complete about two or three items on the list, which makes him believe they’re overselling the benefit to the voters.
“Have we really looked at the numbers for a roofing repair at Green Acres, the kitchen at Cascades, all of this?” he asked.
William Lewis III, director of business services, responded that the more realistic need is $50 to 60 million to cover all deferred maintenance costs, too much, he said, to ask for from taxpayers.
“It’s this balancing act that we’re trying to do,” Lewis said. “We’re trying to do right by the community, make it palatable, and be proactive on some of this stuff.”
Board Chair Mike Martin expressed concern because reference to Pre-K space is footnoted as a possible use of the bond, which he believes should not be included because it’s “not one of the community’s priorities,” based on survey results.
Board member Tom Oliver moved to approve the resolution; Borden seconded.
“I do think we need to put it forward to the public and let them weigh in on it,” Borden said.
Martin noted that, though the bond has been supported for months, putting it on the ballot has been probably the most difficult decision for them because they want to be sure it is not flawed when put forth.
“It’s up to us to scrutinize, heavily, what’s being put in front of us, and not pass just anything on to the public,” he said.
Before the meeting started, the audience was invited to speak. Three speakers took the opportunity to address the school board with calm and restraint.

Mike Martin, right, tells Jason Powell, center, it’s permissible to remove the mask when speaking in the microphone. Photo by Sarah Brown

Jason Powell expressed concern because he heard some students were planning a walk-out from schools in protest of masks, but the principal and teachers stood at the door telling them they had no right to do that. Yet, he pointed out, activity by Black Lives Matter was supported in the past.
“I feel that the staff needs to either support all, or support none,” Powell said.
He also brought up the bond issue, saying there are a lot of needs at the school and, although an upgraded pool would be nice, “education and safety need to come first.”
Sabrina Mann next addressed the board regarding the town hall meeting Feb. 8. She felt the forum did not seem prepared for the amount of people who were present to ask concerns, leaving many questions unanswered. She posed further questions, including whether the district would consider a compromise with concerned parents, and stated a second public town hall meeting will take place in March.
“We would like to have an open and honest communication with you all about the school-based health clinic,” she said.
Alisa Triglia stated she is not in favor of the bond “until our children are unmasked,” because, according to her understanding, the district receives federal funding if the mask mandates are complied with.
In other business, the board:
♦ Approved the Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District local service plan for 2022-23;
♦ Approved a resolution to approve the Alternative Contract Method Construction Manager/General Contractor process to select a contractor for construction of a classroom expansion at Seven Oak Middle School. A staff report presented by Business Director William Lewis stated that using that method, instead of the more common low-bid method, would save the district money;
♦ Prior to the regular board meeting, Lewis presented Budget Committee members with a refresher on district goals and what to expect in the upcoming budget meetings. October 2020 enrollment projection and trends indicate there was a small uptick in Linn County birth rates, enrollment started to recover in 2021-22, and an increase in building permit activities that might encourage more families into the area.
Revenue trends indicate the nation has a recovering unemployment rate, but a decline in consumer sentiment. Inflation is the big discussion nationwide right now, Lewis said. It will take time for inflation to settle down, so the committee needs to forecast that into their expectations.
Local property taxes saw a robust increase 2020-21 at 6.86 percent growth, but a low 3.33 percent growth rate the following year, which was lower than Lewis expected, he said.
He reviewed COVID-related federal funding and stimulus money, and cited the state economist who said that when inflationary periods end, they don’t end well.
PERS investment returns were 20.1 percent, an “incredible” rate that will likely not be seen again any time soon, Lewis said. But now the budget committee needs to start looking at the fiscal cliff that’s on its way.