Salem-Keizer considers $147 million less for bond proposal

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Salem-Keizer considers $147 million less for bond proposal

Published 8:05 p.m. PT May 30, 2017 | Updated 3:34 p.m. PT May 31, 2017

The Salem-Keizer School District is considering lowering its latest bond proposal by $147 million and waiting until next May to take the proposal to voters.

The results of a bond feasibility survey showed community members were behind the bond measure, which would use the money to address overcrowding and facility needs in the district, but they weren’t comfortable with the price tag.

The total amount of work needed in the district was estimated at $766 million and would have required an average property tax increase of about $3 per thousand of assessed property value over the life of the bond, according to district officials.

The survey gave the district a list of projects to prioritize.

After reviewing the survey results and refinement of the estimates, district officials presented a new number, $619.2 million, which is an increase in the existing tax rate of just under $1.29 over the current rate.

Though the newest proposal is about $147 million less than the initial proposal, the bond would still be the largest in the district’s history.

Michael Wolfe, chief operation officer for the district, said the new number meets the requirement of reducing the cost of the bond while also including categories important to the community members.

The survey showed the range of acceptable cost for most voters was an additional $1.51-$2.50, bringing the new amount below the range.

This amount would still address capacity and core infrastructure at 39 of the 65 schools in the district, provide millions of dollars in seismic upgrades, fund more safety and security equipment, provide routine maintenance at 54 schools and seven support buildings, and more.

Wolfe said the difference in proposal totals comes mostly from refining the numbers, not cuts. He said the initial estimates were very conservative.

“We’re beyond the great recession and the economy is picking up in the Salem-Keizer communities,” Wolfe said, referring to the new tax rate estimates.

The list of changes, he said, includes changes at the middle school level, changes with the seismic upgrades, a smaller amount for the Americans with Disabilities Act, and consolidation of some projects.

Wolfe recommended the board work toward a goal of having the bond measure on the May 2018 ballot, instead of this coming November’s election. City of Salem officials have discussed proposing a bond in November for seismic upgrades to the Salem Public Library.

The board asked Wolfe to provide a comprehensive list of changes and other options by the board’s next meeting on June 13.

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist.

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