ONTARIO — What is a school bond?

Public school district bond issues finance capital improvements, such as school buildings, technology and curriculum. Bond measures are placed on the ballot along with information about the capital improvements that would be funded if the bond measure is approved by the voting public. If bonds are authorized by voters in the school district, they will be repaid by property taxes over time.

Why now?

Ontario School District was chosen by the Oregon Department of Education to receive a $4 million matching grant if a General Obligation Bond Measure is passed. Matching bonds are provided to school districts as part of Senate Bill 447.

The primary goal of SB 447 is to encourage communities to pass local school district general obligation bonds to address the deferred maintenance problems present in Oregon’s schools. If voters pass Ontario School District’s $25 million bond ask in May, the state will give the district $4 million to be used for Ontario schools.

Voters within the school district are still paying off a $18.5 million bond that was passed in 2010, after an earlier version had failed in 2008, and are expected to be paying through 2027; however the assessed value has been lower than was marketed due to an interest subsidy that came in after it was passed.

The 2008 bond “was marketed as a levy of $1.49 / $1,000 but in 2018-19 the levy actually paid was only $1.0455 / $1,000,” according to information received from Mary Jo Evers, finance director for the school district.

The current bond is generating about $18,800 a month in interest for the district, Evers said, and about $200,000 total per year, “which is used to pay down the principal so we don’t have to levy the taxes.”

“Therefore, if you look at the bond already approved with levy capacity of $1.49 the district is only asking for $.51 more,” Evers said. “We anticipate and strive to keep the rate as low as possible, but it is dependent upon assessed value of property, investment interest rates, and the actual interest rate of the bonds themselves at the date of sale. The rate proposed is the upper limit of what can be levied,” Evers wrote in an email.

We’re still working on chipping away phases of the long-range facilities plan that was established back in 2008, Evers said in a phone interview this morning.

Who would pay?

The bond would be repaid by a property tax on residential, commercial and industrial properties. All taxable properties within the Ontario School District would be affected by the bond payments.

What would it cost?

The $25 million bond would cost taxpayers $1.00 per $1,000.00 assessed property value per year, according to information from the Ontario School District. The bond will be paid off in 20 years.

What can be done with bond funds?

The 2010 OSD Bond funded a new Middle School Facility. It also allowed for non-routine maintenance and upgrades to meet ADA standards at Alameda, Cairo and Pioneer elementary schools. It constructed a new science wing at Ontario High School. It reconfigured parent pick-up and drop-off areas to Aiken and May Roberts schools. It also focused on essential improvements to keep students in facilities that are warm, safe and dry.

2019 Bond: If it passes, would prioritize student and staff safety; would ensure all students will have access to enriched learning opportunities to modern standards; would continues the district’s effort to protect the community investment in aging facilities by improving them to 21st century standards; would secure a $4 million state matching grant; and would address needs identified by the Long Range Facilities Task Force.

The $25 million capital bond measure would enhance security by relocating or renovating front entrances at Ontario High School, Aiken and Alameda; add fire sprinklers to the Vo-tech building at the high school; secure/enclose student walkways at Alameda,, Cairo and Aiken elementary schools; relocate and renovate the band/choir room at the high school; facilitate a comprehensive renovation of the high school locker rooms to meet ADA and safety standards; construct a sixth-grade building on the Ontario Middle School campus, expanding elementary classrooms to keep class sizes down as student population grows; secure students walkways and commons areas at Aiken, Cairo, and Alameda elementary schools; provide space for extracurricular opportunities and more.

The district aims to keep citizens informed by re-establishing a Citizen Oversight Committee to ensure bond proceeds are guarded for the purposes indicated. District staff also will provide bond progress reports to the Ontario School District Board and regular updates to the community.

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