Falls City bond measure fails by 11 votes

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See the story online at StatesmanJournal.com

9:22 a.m. PDT May 20, 2016

The P.E. bus will continue to roll for students in the Falls City School District.

A bond measure that would have paid for a new gymnasium for elementary and middle school students failed on Tuesday by the narrowest of margins. It fell 11 votes short of passage, the closest municipal vote in any of Polk and Marion counties’ elections.

Measure 27-118 would have provided funds for a multi-purpose gymnasium so elementary and middle school students would have a place for physical education, bad weather, emergencies and sport team practices and games.

Currently students in grades 5 through 8 are bused to the high school for physical education, and the elementary school students don’t have space for recess and P.E. classes besides a multipurpose room.

Proceeds of the bonds would have been used to:

  • Construct, equip and furnish a multi-purpose gymnasium and cafeteria space at the elementary school with community access;
  • Make improvements to district facilities, including remodel kitchen at the elementary school;
  • Expand parking;
  • Pay for costs of issuance.

The gymnasium would also have been the most seismically up-to-date building in the area, providing a large shelter for the community in emergencies.

If it was approved, the average tax rate was estimated to be approximately $1.30 per $1,000 of assessed value or $130 annually for property assessed at $100,000. Additionally, the state would have provided a $2 million matching grant for the projects.

Since it was not approved, these state funds will be diverted to another district.

As of Thursday, the vote was 177 for “yes” and 188 for “no.”

Polk County Clerk Val Unger said the county has counted everything they have received, but there could be other votes from other counties.

The difference has to be within seven votes to prompt an automatic recount.

Unger said if anyone wants to request a recount, they can, but they would have to pay for it.

While this measure did not pass, 13 of 22 Oregon school districts passed local bond measures Tuesday in the largest such field since 2008.

“It didn’t go the way we thought it would,” said Falls City School District Superintendent Jack Thompson.

Aside from one very vocal community member who opposed the bond measure, he said, the community seemed positive and supportive.

Falls City School District serves 184 pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students, about 52 of whom are bused every other day to the high school.

“We are not planning on requesting a recount,” Thompson said. “I have no doubt Polk County did a fine job.”

Nonetheless, this was not the turnout he had hoped for after working more than eight months on the measure with other district members.

Thompson said he will be posting a survey on the district’s website soon to get a better understanding of why people voted no.

District board members will discuss future steps at the next board meeting at 6:30 p.m. June 21 at the high school.

Thompson said they might try to get matching funds again in the future, but he is not sure at this point.

“I’d like to say thank you to the community for the support we were given,” he said. “Through those conversations, hopefully we will have additional direction.”

Natalie Pate is the education reporter for the Statesman Journal. Contact Natalie at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist or on the Web at nataliepate.com

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