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Gervais School District voters have not passed a school bond since the early 1990s.

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Gervais School Board discuss specifics of the bond on the upcoming ballot. Voters in the district haven't passed a school bond since the early 1990s. GSD officials have discussed potential consequences of diminishing resources, including the district being absorbed by surrounding school districts.It is important for the Gervais School District, the city of Gervais, and all community stakeholders to work together to ensure the Gervais community remains viable and flourishes.

Even before the pandemic, Gervais Elementary School was experiencing a decline in enrollment. Part of this is because of declining birth rates. However, a portion of this can also be attributed to the insufficient supply of affordable housing, specifically geared for young families, which needs to be addressed by the city of Gervais soon. Declining enrollment means the school district receives less money to provide educational opportunities. Fewer opportunities means that families will look to other districts that are able to provide the experiences families want their children to have.

The district is asking voters to pass a bond that would increase property taxes by $2.21 per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning for the average taxpayer in the district boundaries an additional $28 to $38 per month for the coming year.

The district has not passed a bond since the early 1990s. The district's newest building, Gervais Middle School, is a configuration of prefabricated buildings paid for through the sale of Brooks Elementary School and a loan.

Among the surrounding communities consisting of 31 school districts, Gervais is one of two districts without a general obligation bond to pay for facilities.

Declining enrollment, an inability to offer robust programing and deteriorating facilities will eventually create a crisis that will require difficult decisions by the school board. When districts cannot sustain themselves, they become insolvent which leads to adsorption by neighboring districts. Many will recall in the early 1990s, the state required smaller districts to consolidate as cost-saving measures, so it is not unheard of for this to happen.

Should the school board determine that it is necessary to merge with another district, it can do so. The Gervais School District would likely be divided among the following districts:

Woodburn, St. Paul, Mt. Angel, Silver Falls and Salem/Keizer.

Based on enrollment size and the condition of the buildings, students may be transported to the buildings in their new school districts.

Properties owned within the Gervais School District boundaries would then become a part of the absorbing district and have those district's bonds added to their taxes.

Here is a breakdown of what the other districts are paying per $1,000 in assessed value: Mt. Angel, $7.64; Silver Falls, $6.57; St. Paul, $7.74; Salem/Keizer, $7.22; Woodburn, $6.99; Gervais, no bond, $4.64, with bond, $6.85.

If taxpayers don't support the district in a bond, they may end up paying anyway, but for buildings in another town and within a district they have little connection to and no control over.

The district staff and school board members are committed to keeping our schools open, growing and ensuring our students thrive. However, we need your help, so please vote "yes" on ballot measure 24-463.

GSD Board of Directors: Henry Bustamante, Ana Contreras, Maria Caballero, Maria Contreras, Angie Toran.

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- Gervais School District has bond on ballot

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