Heartbreaking levy defeat for Culver schools

Second loss in 18 months; third try planned this fall

POSTED: 6:23 PM PDT May 22, 2013    UPDATED: 6:39 PM PDT May 22, 2013 
CULVER, Ore. -

The Culver Bulldog hangs proudly on banners through the street, a message of support from the close-knit small town.

But Culver voters on Tuesday narrowly rejected a nearly $10 million bond measure to make repairs to the school district's old buildings and pay for a piece of land the district purchased back in 2008.

Still, Superintendent and Elementary Principal Stefanie Garber is trying to stay positive.

"The good news is, you don't need much heat in the spring or in the fall," she said Wednesday.

Garber said getting the school's failing heating system updated is crucial --something they've been patching up for years, waiting for the money.

It's the second failed bond measure; as voters also rejected a $14.5 million bond in the fall of 2011.

"There was many weeks where we went, at least one, or a couple days, with no heat. So kids were freezing and at points, didn't have electricity," Garber said of the failing heating system and the make-do space heaters that would cause their electricity to short-circuit.

But some residents say they are on fixed incomes and cannot afford to pay more taxes.

There's also some controversy lingering behind the school's nearly $2 million land purchase.

The Store and Old Court House Gift Shop owner Christian Avila told NewsChannel 21 he wasn't surprised the bond failed. He said many of his customers were against paying for the school's new land.

"The property (cost) was too much, and they actually were not aware of the purchase," Avila said.

Garber was not superintendent when the land was bought. but says it was purchased behind closed doors. She said she suspects the land debt portion of the  bond was why it didn't pass.

"The way it was purchased, I wish was done differently," she said. "So we're holding the kids hostage and impacting their education because of bitterness toward a decision that was made about buying property."

Garber says the district will try again in November -- and keep trying until it passes.

She doesn't yet know if the district will ask for less money next time, or even take  that controversial land debt off the proposal.

In the meantime, she says, it's the kids who suffer.

"Perhaps cutting technology, reducing sports or cutting teachers, --we're going to have to go back to the drawing board," Garber said about possibly passing a bond that drops the dollars for paying off the land debt.

But she's hopeful it will pass, ad says the district is slowly winning over voters.

On Tuesday night, when the votes were tallied it turned out 53 percent of voters rejected the measure -- which failed by just 60 votes -- that's compared to a 2-to-1 rejection of the last levy request in 2011.