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Voters: back Culver schools, jail levy requests

The third time’s the charm. That’s the hope of the Culver School District regarding its improvement bond. For the sake of the district’s students, and the capacity for the Culver community to provide quality schools, voters should make it so.

Ballots will be mailed out Friday.

The district pared nearly $1 million off its request from last spring, which was rejected by a slim 60-vote margin. The request this fall: a 15-year $8.8 million levy. The bond would add $2.59 per thousand to the tax rolls. Voters need to support it.

Of the $8.8 million, $4.85 million would replace the aged two-winged elementary facility — built in the early 1960s, when construction standards were far below those of today. The new structure would also house the student services facility. Part of the $4.85 million is earmarked for additional classroom space is both the middle and high schools, addressing longterm expansion needs.

Another $3 million is targeted for “systems and safety” improvements at the high school and middle school, replacing outdated heating and electrical systems, repair decaying interior and exterior areas of those schools, plus address ADA access and safety measures. One glaring safety issue: the high school has several entry/exit areas that are essentially out of eyesight of the office. In this modern era, that is a major safety concern that needs addressed, and this levy will do that.

That leaves $950,000 on that $8.8 million bond.

The biggest cloud that has hampered the Culver district’s two prior efforts to revamp its schools via a levy is a debt the district has regarding a 2008 purchase of 14 acres, a move made by previous district leadership with the idea of future expansion needs for the district. The previous two requests included funds to pay off the $1.9 million bill, an element that became a political albatross, giving voters a powerful, protest reason to vote no.

The district realizes that, and with this effort, offers a compromise: If voters pay half of the debt, the district will pinch pennies and pay the other half with general funds. In this day and age, political compromise seems unattainable. Hopefully, the Culver district voters will see their way to it, and approve this measure.

The Culver district has long had great pride in its schools and facilities, and for good reason. But the district isn’t just the city of Culver and the farmland within eyesight of the town — it spreads over Juniper Butte and across the Crooked and Deschutes rivers. Many district voters aren’t connected to the Culver community in any way greater than having to pay taxes into its school district. That fact, maybe more than the land purchase issue, has made it difficult to get this school bond passed.

Hopefully the reduction in levy request, and the compromise on the land funding issue, will move enough voters to make up that 60-vote margin.

Countywide, voters will be asked to approve a county jail operations levy of $1.24 per $1,000 value. This would replace the current amount of 99 cents per $1,000.

The doors to the jail will not fly open if this levy is not approved. If the request was coming from nearly any other voice but law enforcement, the cry from much of the public might be to live within your current allotment, especially with revenues to jump with the increase in property valuations.

But this is for jail operations, community safety. Plus, the request is being made by a well-respected, popular sheriff in Jim Adkins. For one, he’s earned the trust of the public where finances are concerned. When he took over the position in 2010, he immediately cut positions to cut costs, and he took the tough stance to back the consolidation of 911 services to the regional Condon facility, which saved $50,000 a year.

Adkins reminds the public that the jail construction bond of 77 cents per $1,000 in value will come off the tax rolls in June. So, the taxpayers’ total cost for the jail and its operation will go down 52 cents. That’s a good selling point and certainly one way to look at it.

The strongest argument to vote yes, though, is that a large share of the jail’s operation funding could soon, or eventually, go away.

Currently, the county leases bed space to Deschutes and Crook counties, substantially augmenting the operation budget. Last week, there were 69 inmates in the jail and 26 of them, 38 percent, were from Crook or Deschutes county. Both counties are moving toward increasing their in-county jail capacities and may, in the near future, not have to rent beds from Jefferson. That would put a serious chip into to the jail’s revenues, and could put current operations in jeopardy.

This jail operations levy, moving up from 99 cents to $1.24 per $1,000, has that fact in the back of its mind, so to speak.

To essentially guarantee well-founded jail operations into the future, vote yes. That way we won’t, in all likelihood, have to worry at all about the doors to the jail flying open.




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