Lake Oswego voters approve $187 million school bond
A $187 million bond measure designed to address years of deferred maintenance in the Lake Oswego School District appears headed for an easy victory.
Unofficial results as of midday Wednesday showed Measure 3-515 leading 60.2 percent to 39.8 percent. If those results hold, the bond will replace Lakeridge Junior High; fund seismic, safety and technology upgrades; pay for a new district pool; and allow for repairs at all of the district's schools.
News of the bond's likely passage was greeted with delight by dozens of supporters who gathered at a Tuesday night election event at Five Spice Restaurant in downtown Lake Oswego.
"I'm just really proud to be a part of Lake Oswego School District right now," LOSD Superintendent Heather Beck told The Review. "I'm also proud of the School Board for making this happen."
School Board Chair Sarah Howell said she agrees that this is a moment of pride for the community.
"This is validating what we already know, that this city loves and cares for its schools," Howell said. "This is going to fund vital repairs and safety investments to serve all of the children in our district."
John Stirek, chairman of the Keep Lake Oswego Schools First campaign for the bond, said he thinks the right message got out to voters about what schools need, and that the voters listened.
"They voted accordingly and showed that they believe in the district and they believe in our schools," Stirek said.
School Board member Bob Barman called this "the greatest legacy ever" for the community.
"Thank you, Lake Oswego," Barman said.
Final results will be tabulated within three weeks, according to election officials, and must be certified by June 5. But with such a commanding lead, it looks like the bond will almost certainly provide:
• $61.4 million for deferred maintenance and seismic upgrades at all schools;
• $82.3 million to replace Lakeridge Junior High School;
• $16.2 million for improvements to security, safety and technology;
• $7 million to replace the district's swimming pool;
• $5.3 million for the creation of science, technology, engineering, art and math centers;
• $5.9 million for the addition of maker spaces/multipurpose rooms at elementary schools; and
• $9 million for other costs, such as relocating students during construction.
Measure 3-515 creates a tax rate of $1.25 per $1,000 assessed property value. That means a tax of $425 per year for a home with an assessed value of $340,000, the median in the school district, according to Clackamas County. Assessed value equals about two-thirds of a typical home's real market value.
Creating the bond was a lengthy and involved process — but certainly worth the effort for school staff and community members, Beck said.
"It's been a long time coming," she said. "It's been a great journey."
Three years ago, a real estate study of most school buildings outlined serious maintenance issues that had been delayed during the recession, in favor of routing limited funds to staff and students. That was followed in 2015 by an in-depth analysis of all 18 buildings in the district — including the 10 operational schools; it indicated that at least $98 million in deferred maintenance and seismic repairs were needed, not including soft costs such as design and personnel.
Since then, the School Board and district staff have reached out to dozens of local groups, commissioned two phone surveys, created an online forum and held several public input sessions to learn what projects the community would want to be included in a potential bond.
Two groups composed of community members and school district employees — the Long Range Facilities Planning and Bond Development committees — then helped the bond take shape.
The LRFP Committee first met in September 2015 and presented its recommendations to the board in January 2016. One of the committee's key recommendations was to hire a project manager, and the district brought on its executive director of project management, Randy Miller. Another recommendation was to develop a Bond Oversight Committee, which will be one of the next steps now that voters have approved the bond.
The Bond Development Committee first met in February 2016 and offered its recommendations to the board in June 2016. The committee put forth two possible bond configurations, both of which included the replacement of Lakeridge Junior High School. In fall 2016, the board approved the final bond measure that went before voters this week.
"These schools have needed this for a long time," School Board member John Wallin said Tuesday night, "and I'm just so happy."
Beck said she's especially excited to be getting a replacement for Lakeridge Junior High, since the school has cracks in its load-bearing walls and foundation from sitting on shifting soil. The bond will give local students a modern, new building, she said — "a facility that they can be proud of."
With voter approval in hand, Miller told The Review that the next step will be to establish a Bond Oversight Committee — a key component in the district's efforts to avoid the pitfalls that followed passage of a bond measure in 2000. Funds from that bond were not spent as promised, with more dollars being committed to high school projects than anticipated. In addition, construction problems led to lawsuits by the district against the contractor, architect and attorney for the Lake Oswego High rebuild and the architect and attorney for the Lakeridge High renovation.
"As we look forward to bringing badly needed improvements to our schools, we also recognize our incumbent responsibility to execute these projects carefully and with full accountability to the citizens who are paying for them," Beck said.
Miller said the Bond Oversight Committee will ensure that bond money is spent exactly as the School Board and the public intended. Members of the committee, who will be appointed by Beck, will be experts in the construction field or related professions.
"We are committed to honoring the trust voters have placed in us, and to providing schools that continue to be a source of pride for our community," Beck said.
After the committee is in place, the district will begin to recruit project management staff to support Miller. Then the district will sell bonds, hire architects, begin design work, issue bids on the bond projects and commence with construction.
"All of this takes time," Miller said. "Without funding, we have not been able to start the process."
A timeline for the list of projects is still being formulated, Miller said, but there probably "won't be any construction this summer." There's still a long design process, and major construction can't go on while school is in session, he explained.
There's still a lot of work ahead, Beck agreed, but she said Tuesday evening was a time for celebration.
"It's a great night for the kids of Lake Oswego," she said.