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Significant renovations to schools, investment in career-focused learning in bond package

PMG FILE PHOTO - Th Newberg School District is putting the fate of a $141 million bond in the hands of voters this fall.

After deciding not to put a construction bond on the ballot in May and doing some retooling of the package, the Newberg School District is putting the fate of a $141 million bond in the hands of voters this fall.

In November, voters in Newberg and Dundee will decide whether to approve an influx of tax dollars the district would put toward multiple key projects to improve the local education system.

The bond received a unanimous recommendation from the development committee, which includes a number of community members and stakeholders. It was approved Aug. 11 by the school board.

"We reconvened the bond development committee twice this summer in June and July, and we looked at what changes we might need to make to the bond package due to COVID and the current economic situation," district communications director Gregg Koskela said. "Our committee developed a $141 million package that addresses the issues we've been working hard on and is more suited to the times we're in now with COVID.

"There will be community education to do no matter what, whether we're doing a $105 million package or $141 million. The committee thought that — at $105 million — we would have to cut too many things to make the package essential to what our district needs. This package addresses the bare essentials and improves many of our other crucial needs throughout the district."

The bond, called Measure 36-205 on voters' ballots in November, will include the construction of a new Dundee Elementary School ($34.3 million estimate); a remodel and expansion of Edwards Elementary School ($17.2 million); safety and maintenance improvements at all existing schools, including seismic updates to old buildings, fixes to roofs and pipes, disaster preparedness and updated air conditioning/HVAC systems (about $23 million); and a significant investment in Career and Technical Education programs at Newberg High School ($23.8 million). The added cost for taxpayers will be 78 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on their homes, bringing the total effective tax rate to $1.52 per $1,000, which includes the lingering cost of previous bonds.

The real market value of the average home in Newberg is about $397,000, according to the real estate website Zillow. Assessed value for tax purposes is typically around 60 percent of the real market value, so the average assessed value in Newberg is approximately $238,000. Take the formula for the bond payment of $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed value, and Newberg homeowners will pay an average of $362 in property taxes to fund local school bonds — an increase of $186 from the current rate.

Koskela said the rate is far lower than it's been in previous decades, including years where the cost per $1,000 of assessed value was as high as $4.04.

"As we continued to work on getting that number down, we had two things work in our favor: one is the bond markets and the way things work in the economy, and the other is we planned for a longer payoff of the bonds so it can be more affordable for taxpayers," Koskela said. "We're at a lower place than we were expecting originally. Newberg and Dundee have been so great about their support for bonds, and this is one of the more affordable bonds historically when you look at cost per assessed value."

"The bond is really focused on safety and security and keeping our buildings well. We have 10 school buildings and they have a lifespan, and when a building gets to be 70 years old like Dundee Elementary, it needs to be replaced. If you're on a bond cycle like we are of 10 to 15 years, that means it will take you at least 100 years to turn over all of your buildings. We were looking at this and seeing it as a responsibility to replace our oldest building and do necessary work on others."

The district is now working to put together informational packages for the community so it can get a full picture of where the money will go and how it will benefit the district and community. Officials are also gathering endorsements from local entities to include in voter pamphlets this fall. Koskela emphasized that the bond does more than just benefit students and faculty in the school district — he said it aids the community at large in more ways than one.

"One of the things we heard loud and clear from our community business members who are part of the bond development committee is that they're struggling to find qualified workers in the manufacturing field and elsewhere who are ready to jump in," Koskela said. "That's why we want a significant renovation of our Career and Technical Education offerings so we can continue to build partnerships with those businesses and train the next generation of workers. An investment in education will make a tangible difference to the business community in Newberg."

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