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A final propoal could be crafted by the end of this month, school officials say

GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - If passed, a new school bond would pay for construction of a new Dundee Elementary School.

After months of meeting and work behind the scenes, the process of crafting a construction bond proposal is coming to a head for the Newberg School District. In a message to parents and community members last month, Superintendent Joe Morelock estimated the cost of the bond will be approximately $140 million and will address a number of significant needs across the district.

Among those will likely be a complete replacement of the aging Dundee Elementary School, a renovation of the cafeteria at Edwards Elementary and additional funding for Career and Technical Education programs throughout the district. Morelock outlined the details of the proposed package – which is still being reworked and finalized – in the memo sent out to people in the district that is also available on the district's website.

So far, Morelock said the monthly meetings between district officials and bond development committee members have been productive.

"There is always far more needed than you can ask the voters for," Morelock said. "Trying to prioritize has been the biggest challenge. We're trying to figure out where our sweet spot is between what the community will support and what we need most."

The process has been emotional for many involved, Morelock said, and there's been plenty of debate and disagreement along the way about what should and shouldn't make it into the proposed package. District officials are weighing needs as well as voter appetite for more taxes to pay for the bond.

As a result, Morelock said he and the district have been making an effort to be transparent in the bond development process and share details with the public.

"I think it's important that people understand the needs of the district and where their tax dollars go," he said. "It's always a challenge to balance providing the best opportunity for kids, teachers and staff with maintaining and updating facilities. Schools are used all the time by the public for many years, so when you're asking people to pay an additional amount in taxes they should know where their dollars might go."

This bond proposal is using the district's long-range facilities plan from two years ago as a guide, with committee members providing input and helping add and subtract items where necessary. BRIC Architecture is leading the construction portion of the bond proposal, providing estimates and mock-ups to committee members and the district so they can get a better idea of what they will eventually propose to voters.

The school bond will go on the ballot in May after a final version of the language is submitted some time in March. By the end of January, Morelock expects the school board will have seen the proposal and finalized it for presentation to the voters. The details of the proposal won't be fully enacted until after the election, but the district wants to use this process for people to get a full idea of what they will be voting on come May.

"Right now we've got to prepare a final recommendation to the school board for the best-looking package," Morelock said. "We still have more work to do on estimates for the bond cost, and then the board will need to make a decision on the agreed-upon amount and bond package.

"Hearing everyone's opinions in this process has been productive," he said. "Everybody has certain things they're most interested in, and they discover there are needs across the district and every place needs different things. It's okay to disagree and ultimately compromise for the benefit of the entire district."

In order to make the case to voters that the new bond will be worth the investment, district finance director Nikki Fowler said the district is targeting a tax rate at a maximum of $1.99 per $1,000 of assessed value on taxpayers' homes, which she said is around or below the rate that homeowners have been paying on previous bonds.

The real market value of the average home in Newberg is approximately $362,400, according to real estate website Zillow.

Assessed value for tax purposes is typically around 60 percent of the real market value, so the median assessed value is $217,440. Take the formula for the bond payment of $1.99 for every $1,000 of assessed value and the average Newberg resident will pay roughly $431 per year in the form of property taxes.

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