The Forum: Four letters regarding the school bond

May 2013 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

A civic responsibility to our future

Every generation is faced with its own unique challenges.

On May 21st we meet one of those challenges, the decision to support or not support the school bond measures in Silver Falls School District.

In today’s fiscally constrained environment it is difficult to justify to voters the necessity of supporting current property tax rates when we personally may not realize its direct benefit. Supporting our Silver Falls School Bond Measure 24-352 does, and will continue to, directly benefit us.

As citizens of this country and state we have a civic responsibility to see past today, tomorrow, this weekend or next month.

We must look to the years ahead, understand the requirements our children must meet to remain competitive in the world marketplace.

Our young citizens are our future taxpayers!

So in essence by “Paying It Forward,” and supporting our local school bond measure 24-352 we are deciding to see past today’s direct fiscal benefit and choosing to support the long term benefit of a strong and well educated citizenry that can maintain a very bright future for the great state Oregon and the United States of America.

Phillip Appleton

Wants versus needs

“Quality of buildings and budgets do not correlate with test scores.” This is a February 2012 response from the 2011 Oregon Teacher of the Year, on Salem-Keizer District’s justification for removal of historically scholastically productive old rural schools with new consolidated schools that allegedly would be cheaper by the numbers and scholastic results would average out. This applies to our current debate of wants versus needs as they apply to good education within our existing Silverton facilities.

The current $36.9 million bond as proposed, suggests to give about $3 million to SFSD rural schools as a carrot vote; thus allowing the balance to be spent on Silverton urban schools in the form of new facilities.

Based on cost factors that are the results of the current appetites of architects and administrators, new construction, demolition and additional site costs, conclude that reconstruction of approximately 125,000 square foot of the old campus, currently the plan, may exceed $40 million. Also, the proposed $2.1 million upgrades for Mark Twain do not include any remediation for seismic conditions, the ongoing issue at Eugene Field.

The same architects who spent about $53 rather than $33 million (Silverton Appeal 3/14/2007) on Phase II of the new high school did not have a conflict of interest when they advised (attachment: Dull Olson Weeks, 8/8/1993) in 1993 the cost for Schlador “Fire, Life and Safety Issues, Structural & Seismic, Electric, HVAC, and ADA” as $2.9 million, and again in 1999, $3.37 million. Now having a conflict of interest for another job, large profits, and prestige in a weak market, their budget on 1/28/2013 is $26.76 million. Compare this to their $26 million for new. This is not credible.

On 11/20/2012, Salem Architect Geoff James (McKay HS; CCCollege; Courthouse Square remediation) presented a 36-page budget recommendation to the SFSD superintendent. This document was not released to the public. His vision includes a new accessible Schlador entry addition, elevator, covered waiting, and many improvements to add to student academic function and the longevity of the buildings. This included a $1 million contingency and the design and engineering to support his recommendations for a bond under $10 million. It is clear that this historic building may provide solid opportunity for another 50 years.

The same conclusive methods may be used at Eugene Field. As at Schlador, there are structural conditions that allow for artistic architectural steel frames supported by massive footings to stabilize the length of the structure for earthquakes.

On 3/15/2013, a 17-page local study and recommendations for EF was received, stating corrections for air quality and other safety, plus up-grades to serve technology. The responsible costs for saving another historical building for productive “safe” use for the health and education of our children may be achieved for $1.5 million.

SFSD needs to rely on professional services that are not excessive in cost nor fueled by architectural prestige and profit.

Constant monitoring of our wants and needs will find the correct example to give our children in their path to scholastic success.

Gene Pfeifer

Now not the time for new bond

Silverton has historically supported schools with enthusiasm. However, citizens need relief from high local tax burdens. Homes valued at $200,000 are taxed at $670 per year for the current bonds. The retirement of one of the existing bonds this year will decrease that burden for the same home by $238 per year.

Silver Falls schools have need of maintenance. It is unfortunate that many basic repairs have not been completed under past budgets and now fiscally impact us when repairs should have been prudently completed when the need was noted in past years. The “why” question comes to mind. citizens of this school district need answers before being saddled with another large spending bond. Regardless, these repair issues can be resolved for much less than a new $36.9 million major bond debt lasting until after 2030.

The talk about the school need meeting current codes is interesting in light of the high number of structures in Silverton – both commercial and residential – that are not compliant. That does not mean we discontinue use of those structures. Fifty years ago, the same arguments occurred to replace Eugene Field School. Then, street traffic was dangerous, student ratios were high, the structure was not conducive to teaching techniques, fire codes were an issue and there was a need for more outside activity area. The same arguments are used today. Since then, this school has served us well and will continue to do so for some additional years to come.

Multiple computers in every classroom would be nice, but are not essential for the basic education of elementary students. Just the costs of maintenance and replacement of computers could garner a substantial increase in a school budget.

A new building does not mean reduced costs of maintaining existing buildings. The market value of Eugene Field School and the vacant land owned by the school district will not garner top dollar at this time. Therefore, maintenance costs of an abandoned Eugene Field School will continue until the property is sold. If not maintained, current valued will be further reduced. The property would need to be sold at bargain price for demolishment.

Many citizens will continue to face reduced work or unemployment and high fuel and food costs negatively impact their necessary resources and thus quality of life. Everyone is aware of families, friends or neighbors who are hard pressed by this stagnant economy. The elderly on fixed incomes continue to be impacted by savings and other accounts that pay almost zero interest and payroll taxes have increased for all who work. Many of the working are facing reduced hours in the months ahead.

Substantial recovery from this imposing economy could be at least five years. The costs of construction are not expected to increase significantly over this period of time. Therefore, the school district should have the fortitude to complete basic repairs at this time in the interest of all taxpayers. This bond is best introduced in a healthier economy.

We all believe in supporting our children. But these word clichés divert attention from many forgotten individuals within our community who also need our support. With compassion and the spirit of community, remember them before casting this important vote.

Danny L. Johnson

Vote ‘yes’ on school bond

As a member of the City of Silverton Budget Committee, and having a background in banking and finance, I understand the weight difficult decisions bear on our citizens when fees or taxes are increased. Even if it is absolutely necessary to do so, when it hits our pocketbooks, we want to feel we have received something valuable and tangible for our hard-earned money.

Right now, we have the unique opportunity to realize such a benefit without any increase in our taxes, and it benefits our children, our future, directly.  The Silver Falls School District bond proposal coming in May will replace a school district bond from 1994 that will be satisfied at the same time, meaning you will not see any increase in your property taxes.  Let me say it again clearly: By voting YES, you will allow for necessary repairs and upgrades to our schools, and see NO net increase in your taxes. Paying for your local schools is part of your duty as citizens to your community and your community’s children.  Join me in continuing to be a contributing member of our community and vote Yes in May.

William Posegate

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