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Lincoln Elementary

Construction of a new Lincoln Elementary School is one of the the major projects in the bond proposal being sent to voters by the Corvallis School Board.

The Corvallis School Board voted Thursday night to send a nearly $200 million bond proposal to voters this May, following a nearly yearlong facilities planning process.

The proposal, if approved by voters in the district, would be used to fund infrastructure and safety upgrades at all district schools and would replace two district elementary schools with new buildings.

Entering the meeting, the key decision left to be made by the board was the size of the bond proposal. The board members decided on a proposal that school staff said will have an average rate around $1.97 or $1.98 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Last month, the district staff said the current bond, which expires in 2020, had an average rate of $1.64 per $1,000 of assessed value. District staff said for a family with a $250,000 house, the previous bond’s cost would have averaged about $32 per month over its 20-year life.

Major projects included in the plan are replacements for Lincoln and Hoover elementary schools, critical repairs at all schools, replacing all modular classrooms at district elementary schools with new permanent classroom space and expansions of career and technical educations spaces at secondary schools.

Board member Judy Ball was the lone vote against the bond proposal. She said she could not support a bond as large as this, saying she saw $21 million in projects she thought were unnecessary, such as a renovated dining center at Cheldelin Middle School and $9 million in repairs at Franklin K-8 School.

Ball added that local taxing agencies work together to decide when each will go to voters so that taxing measures don't have to compete with each other. She said this obscures just how much taxpayers have to pay. She referenced the metaphor of a frog in a pot of water that doesn't realize it is boiling because the temperature in the pot has increased gradually.

"Eventually, our taxpayer is going to be cooked," Ball said.

However, Jay Conroy, a board member, said he often has used the boiling frog metaphor discussing how class sizes have been allowed to creep up over time. He said he worried that if the district put off projects that could be included in the bond, it might create future maintenance costs that had to be paid from general funds, which would take money that could be used to keep class sizes from going up more.

"We're boiling frogs left and right in the classroom," Conroy said.

Ed Junkins, also on the board, said he agreed with Ball's concern about the tax burden in the community.

"I hope other groups have painful discussions like this and consider the bigger picture as Judy (Ball) has urged," he said.

Sarah Finger McDonald, a board member, said she heard from community members that a rate of $2 per $1,000 of assessed value was acceptable and she had a goal of being under that.

McDonald added that she was happy the district's schools would be getting seismic safety upgrades if voters approve the bond.

"If there is a Cascadia event, I want my children, all of our children, to walk out of our schools."

Vince Adams, the board's chair, said he thought the proposal was a fiscally sound one because it would address needs now rather than letting their costs inflate over time.

"I am happy with this number because it is an investment in the future."

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Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526 or via Twitter @anthonyrimel

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