The Board of Education unanimously approved a recommendation during Monday night’s school board meeting to put an $82.7 million bond measure on the ballot this November.
The bond would not raise school bond taxes past current levels, according to the district.
“I personally am very excited about the outlook for this,” school board member Ginny Holthus said. “[The proposal] addresses the overgrowth in our district.”
The bond would fund a number of projects, including the replacement of Rocky Heights Elementary School with a larger capacity building on the same property and the construction of a new elementary school on property owned by the district on Theater Lane.
The bond would also fund a multi-classroom annex for Hermiston High School, elementary school improvements to address congestion and be used to purchase more property to address projected student capacity.
A recent press release issued by the school district stated that taxpayers can expect to keep the $0.40 reduction per $1,000 assessed value they just gained from the district paying off its pre-2008 debt last month. Instead of raising school bond taxes to a higher level, the new bond would raise the $82.7 million through new growth in Hermiston’s tax base and adding more years onto the end of its bond payment schedule.
According to the Hermiston School District website, the Facility Planning Committee estimated the elementary schools would exceed capacity by the 2020-21 school year and Hermiston High School by this coming school year.
The committee, comprised of 20 community members, including employees of the city, the chamber of commerce, the Hermiston Irrigation District and local businesses, provided insight to the district prior to the authorization of the bond measure.
Stacey Stanek of Columbia River CPA Services, who serves as a co-chair on the committee, said that the growth in Hermiston played a large part in the formation of the bond proposal. She said that the district is collaborating with the city, and that part of this includes contributing to the development of the Theater Lane area by constructing a new elementary school if the bond were to pass.
The proposal would bar bond funds from being used for deferred maintenance. The creation of a citizen oversight committee is also part of the proposal.
“I think the school is really working to be transparent,” Stanek said.
School board chair Karen Sherman said in a news release that the district has an obligation to provide adequate space and quality programs for its students.
“With support from our residents, we’ll be able to keep up with the growing demand for classroom space and maintain quality instruction at each of our campuses,” she stated.
The district’s last bond proposal, which was rejected by voters in 2017, was for $104 million dollars. It would have funded the replacement of both Rocky Heights and Highland Hills Elementary, as well as construct a new elementary school and provide upgrades across the district.
If the bond had passed, it would have cost taxpayers an estimated $0.90 per $1,000 of assessed value.
“Even though we were unsuccessful last time,” said school board vice chair Josh Goller on Monday, “the need is still there.”