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With 2011 bond nearly paid off, board authorizes formation of exploratory committees

The Newberg School District board of directors officially began the process last week to explore whether to put a bond measure on the ballot in 2019.

Thanks to the structure and term of the $27.1 million bond passed in 2011, which will come off the tax rolls in May 2019, taxpayers could see little or no change to their property tax bills if the district proposes raising a similar amount that year.

"We're not looking to build a new high school at $100 million. We don't need that," Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza said. "So it's looking at what is the capacity necessary and what's the time frame to make it fit not only voter needs but our ability to plan again in the future."

Newberg taxpayers are repaying two public school bonds, but the $46 million bond approved in 2002, and the corresponding 82 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, is also set to drop off tax statements in 2021.

The 2011 bond measure featured a levy of approximately $2.63 per $1,000, but had a term of just 7.93 years. So a homeowner with a $250,000 house could expect their tax payment for fiscal year 2019-2020 to fall by about $658 if a bond measure to replace it is not approved by voters, leaving such a taxpayer to pay about $201 annually until the 2002 bond expires.

On Oct. 24, the school board voted unanimously to authorize district staff to form a bond planning committee and a bond facilities task force.

"The planning committee looks at what are the different focal areas that the bond would address," LeBlanc-Esparza said. "Is it facilities and teaching and learning materials or technology? The committee narrows it down and looks at research and surveys and so forth. The task force actually goes around and talks to each of the different facilities and finds out what their needs are."

According to LeBlanc-Esparza, the organizers of the 2011 bond intentionally structured it with a short term because school districts these days need to re-evaluate their capital improvement needs more frequently than every 20 years. The superintendent also recommended against a 20-year term for any bond offering in 2019 for the same reason.

For example, then superintendent Paula Radich said at the time the bond passed that one of its best features was that the district would at least have the ability to approach voters for a capital projects measure in 2019, even if some of her projections for district needs have not quite come to pass.

"We will most likely need a third middle school and another elementary and possibly the beginnings of a second high school — dependent on enrollment growth," Radich said in July 2011.

The next step will be to recruit district staff, students and community members to serve on the two committees. LeBlanc-Esparza she would start that work immediately so as to present members for approval at the Nov. 14 board meeting.

One of the issues the bond planning committee will have to tackle is whether to put forth a bond measure in May 2019 or November 2019. If the district did the former, any approved funds would be levied beginning in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019, meaning taxpayers would start paying off the new bond immediately after the 2011 bond expires. A 2019 ballot proposal would mean new levies would not take effect until the 2020-2021 fiscal year and the hypothetical $250,000 home owner would see their bill drop by approximately $658 for one year.

According to a timeline laid out according to recommendations from the Oregon School Board Association, projects to be handled between now and May 2018 would include creating a facilities assessment, a long-range facilities plan, a project wish list, receiving levy cost estimates, developing a bond structure, communication plan and tentative budget.

The committee would then submit a bond proposal for board approval between May and August 2018, and the district would also begin surveying the community, form a political action committee, address major taxpayer issues and put out a request for proposal for a project manager. Official paperwork would then be filed between November 2018 and May 2019, along with the launch of an official campaign and formation of an oversight committee.

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