The $82.7 million Hermiston School District bond is passed by a narrow margin, according to unofficial returns from Umatilla County.
As of 10:30 p.m., 52.4% of voters voted yes on the bond Tuesday evening. There were a total of 2,446 yes votes and 2,220 no votes. There were 12 undervotes, which skipped the bond measure. Umatilla County elections clerk Kim Lindell said no more ballots were left to be counted for the school bond measure.
“This has been a journey, and I couldn’t be more excited,” said Hermiston Superintendant Tricia Mooney. “We couldn’t be more proud of our community.”
At The Gathering Place restaurant in Bellinger’s Farm Stand in Hermiston, members of the administration and the Hermiston School Board snacked on hors d’ouevres while waiting for the votes to roll in. At 8 p.m., the room fell quiet in anticipation.
When votes were posted on the Umatilla County website, the room exploded.
“We’re ahead,” Mooney said. “We’re working towards the direction.”
The 25-year bond will fund the replacement of the district’s oldest elementary school built 57 years ago, Rocky Heights Elementary School, with a larger, 600-student capacity building and construct a new 600-student building on Theater Lane.
It will also fund an annex to increase capacity at the high school, and elementary school site improvements. The projects, according to the district, will allow the district to adjust school boundaries for Highland Hills Elementary School to reduce enrollment there to a more “appropriate” level.
Bond Measure 30-130 was announced in July, shortly after the district paid off all pre-2008 bond debt, decreasing property taxes by 40 cents per $1,000. This new bond is projected to preserve that decrease, keeping the tax level at $3.65 per $1,000 of assessed value.
As a result of the bond passage, the district will also receive more than $6 million in matching funds from the state.
The payoff dates for a $69.9 million bond approved by voters in 2008, which funded the replacement of two elementary schools and Armand Larive Middle School, are in June 2026 and June 2029.
In 2017, the school district failed to pass a measure for a 22-year $104 million bond, which also aimed to replace Rocky Heights and construct a new elementary school, as well as replace Highland Hills and perform maintenance such as a new roof for Sandstone Middle School. The bond would have cost 90 cents per $1,000 assessed value.
“Community feedback was that it wasn’t time for Highland Hills yet,” Mooney said.
The Hermiston Herald reported that 59% of voters voted no on that bond. Some voters said they didn’t want a tax increase on a fixed income and others were not feeling ready to finance a new elementary school. Some said they felt that people who were newer to the area wouldn’t pull their weight in terms of property taxes.
“Reflecting on the 2017 bond,” Mooney said Tuesday night after the unofficial results were collected, “there’s been a large swing in voters, and we’ve been working hard to win the support of the community.”
Katie Saul, director of business services, said that the $104 million ask back then was too much for the community.
“Not to say that there were unneeded items in that bond, but we really prioritized for this one,” she said. “We know we have our work cut out, and we’re determined to do this.”