Bend-La Pine School Board OKs $98 million bond vote

$98 million May rquest: 2 new schools, upgrades - same property tax rate

BEND, Ore. - The Bend-La Pine School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to return to voters in May for nearly $98 million to build two new schools and do more than 130 other upgrades to existing schools around the district.

The board made no changes from the Sites and Facilities Committee's recommendation for the project list during their 15-minute discussion leading up to the 5-0 vote. District leaders noted that borrowing rates are at an historic law, meaning the money will go about as far as it ever does.

The funding request wouldn't really raise people's tax bills, just keep them from dropping when a previous voter-approved bond measure expires.

So the current tax rate of $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed value would stay basically the same (rather than also decline due to the expiring bonds). (Of course, if a specific property's value rise, so does the bill.)

The still-turbulent economy might make even that "no more money, but no less either" pitch difficult in many voters' eyes.

But some other numbers do point to one thing – the district is still serving a growing number of students, up about 200 this fall alone (roughly four times what was projected), to a total of about 16,500 students.

And most of the district's 14 elementary schools in Bend are near or above capacity, as well as three of four middle schools in the city (La Pine and Sunriver appear to be able to meet enrollment needs "for the foreseeable future," their report says).

An updated population projection from Portland State University expects the Bend-La Pine district to have more than 19,000 students by 2020, and more than 23,000 by 2030.

The committee pointed to a site on Shevlin Park Road for a new middle school on Bend's Westside, rather than a Murphy Road location to the south, based on where the growth is expected to occur. A proposed elementary school site has not yet been chosen.

As for existing schools, the three-page list of proposed capital improvement projects between 2013 and 2017 begins with new siding for Bear Creek Elementary (about $340,000) and ends with $2 million to replace the Transportation Dept.'s Quonset huts with a permanent facility, also adding parking for the bus fleet.

(The sites and facilities report and list of projects can be found in the agenda packet for the school board meeting, which you can download here.)

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