The Forum: Decision 2014

October 2014 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

Facts support bond 

I’m writing to express concerns about the recent misinformation that is circulating about the cost of the upcoming school bond measure. Recently, Mr. Gene Pfeifer shared an incorrect estimate of annual property taxes related to the proposed school bond. His estimate, which also appears in the voter pamphlet, is likely to confuse citizens as it is based on an inaccurate formula that spreads the debt service equally over the life of the bond. This formula describes a principal repayment structure and total interest cost that is misleading.

The truth is, our school board has done an extensive amount of work to come up with a debt structure that minimizes the annual tax burden on local property owners. While it’s true that fluctuations in property value make it impossible to guarantee a tax rate into the future, the steadfast goal of the district team is to maintain property taxes at $3 or less per $1,000 of assessed property. The tax rate Mr. Pfeifer has put forward is based on a formula our school board ruled out early on in the process because it would have placed a heavier tax burden on current property owners (estimated at $3.50-$3.80 per $1,000 for the first 13 years) with less impact on future property owners (estimated at $1.00 per $1,000 during the last four years). Additionally, we heard from several community members during an extensive public input process last year and they made if clear any future bond should keep property tax rates as low as possible, which our proposed bond does.

I recognize how confusing this must be for voters and frankly, I’m concerned. While the district has carefully explored opportunities to remodel and renovate our aging school buildings, it simply is not an affordable or viable option at this point. The claim it can be done for between $5 million and $10 million is not true and is based on inaccurate and incomplete estimates that do not address critical needs like electrical, sewer, roofing, playground and fire safety improvements. Our school board has engaged multiple, reputable experts in the evaluation of the Eugene Field School Building and they have confirmed that the building will not meet the needs of our students into the future. If this bond does not pass, our board will be forced to use the majority of our reserve funds to relocate Eugene Field School students, leaving very little to address the facilities needs of our other District school buildings.

With all of this in mind, I’m asking the residents of Silver Falls School District to learn the facts and take care not to be mislead by a small and vocal minority that is publically sharing information based on speculation and not fact. Please visit the district website at bond.silverfallsschools.org or contact Superintendent Andy Bellando, myself or another member of our school board if you have questions. Please know that our district leadership has proposed this bond with integrity and a true intention to do what we believe is in the best interest of our students and community members. Please do what’s best for our kids and vote yes on the school bond. It’s the right thing to do for our students, teachers, staff and communities. Rather than take a shortsighted approach, let’s be visionary and support a thriving and forward-thinking education system for Silver Falls School District.

Tim Roth, SFSD board chairman


Maintain, not replace Eugene Field

Apparently the sound defeat of the last bond measure was left on deaf ears. The school administration supporters of more spending doubled down in their effort to change the dialogue by forming a committee to simply suggest that Eugene Field School be closed.  Next, the school board voted for closure, thus taking Eugene Field School out of the discussion, and then focused on convincing the citizens that we were not informed enough regarding our previous voted outcome.  The outstanding questions have surprisingly remained unanswered. Why is it that our schools have been allowed to go without proper maintenance??  Have not funds been annually budgeted for repairs? What would be the actual cost to return to a sustainable level of maintenance at all the district schools??  Are we to believe that the country grade school areas are happy in being taxed for an in-town situation?  Although we are all in this together because we are a consolidated district, grade schools other than those in town are not significantly improved by this bond request. What is the real cost of this new attempt to bond into a new school while continuing to maintain those abandoned properties along with the outlying grade schools? According to assessments I have recently reviewed, the long term cost of the bond is substantially more than purported by the school district.

This school district has exhibited a poor track record on maintenance of our community assets, and one might question the consolidation of the grade schools in general. Monitor School is gone, Butte Creek needs repairs and Scotts Mills could use more students. Bethany is now a charter school. Will this be the direction for the others? Eugene Field School might be worn, but it does not need to be considered worn out! Think of the positives that exist within and outside the walls of this structure, including the educational memories, an architecture of historic importance, the children interacting with others as they walk through town to and from school and drivers who slow down in courteous acknowledgement of parents and children. This school is an historic lifeblood of our community.  It is apparent to many that the closing of this school would be a mistake both aesthetically and fiscally.  Another large, vacant building in the downtown core area is not in best interest of our community.   Who would want to purchase it and for what purpose other than demolition? This economy is still negatively affecting many families. Inflation in food, medical expenses, and fuel impact many who can least afford the continued spending proposed by those in support of this bond. The focus needs to be on a positive solution in returning Eugene Field School to a well maintained condition.   If other communities can dedicate themselves to save rather than discard, we in this community should do the same.

Danny L. Johnson


Pay it forward – vote yes 

My point of this letter follows later – historical perspective comes first.  My mother Edith Kaser was clerk in the Evergreen District that was formed shortly after the Civil War. She gave the original book of board minutes to the Oregon Historical Society and I had a chance to read it prior to that donation. The original building was small, east and a bit south of the present location and it cost about $100.

The minutes indicate that about 10 individuals donated construction money. That building became inadequate and around 1900, a new school was built on the current  property.  Again, this building became inadequate, remodeling if discussed was not an option, and the current structure was built in 1948.  As a student, I helped move books, chairs, etc. into the new building. It was larger, and was sited on land that had been the softball field and playground. More outdoor space was needed. My grandfather owned farm ground adjacent  to the school site, and he deeded one acre to the school district for the sum of one dollar – the purpose being to increase playground area.

My granddad gave up farm income on that land for the rest of his life to make Evergreen a better school.

I served on the Silverton Elementary School Board prior to unification. In 1984, this board proposed a bond issue to replace Eugene Field school because of building inadequacies.  A new building would be located on the property currently occupied by the skate park and senior center.  The bond amount was $3.6 million and it failed by about 200 votes with 2200 cast.  Exposed sub floor, carpenter ants, leaky roof and electrical outlets were some of the structural items listed in a Silverton Appeal article at the time.  Thirty years later, Eugene Field is still inadequate.

I am not writing to convince people about dollars, but about sense.  Eugene Field is a poor facility, a worn out facility and is located in an undesirable spot.  The Silver Falls Board made a correct decision to close this building and to relocate affected K-8 students.  Current cost is certainly a factor, but the overriding concern must be the long term function and use of school facilities. A remodel of Eugene Field is not prudent in spite of the “good deal”  dollar amounts presented by opponents (SOS) of the Silver Falls bond.  The SOS numbers are so low that I find them unbelievable. There is a time when aged, inadequate facilities must be replaced rather than attempting a “fix,” period!

As my granddad demonstrated 70 years ago, I also will give up something else in order to pay the additional $200 dollars or so of property tax annually, likely for the rest of my life.  Kids of the future, including my 2-year-old grandson Max, must NOT be taught in a building that is neither fixable nor adequate.  Please join me in supporting the Silver Falls bond.

Raymond Kaser, Ph. D


Bond measure divides district 

For many years there has been much discussion about the fate of Eugene Field School. Many good arguments have been made for moving on and finding a new way to facilitate the education of the children of Silverton.  Also there have been good arguments for investing in that facility and keeping a school in the core of the town. And so after years of discussion and planning the administration and board of Silver Falls School District ran to a plan to abandon the Eugene Field Facility and ask the patrons of Silver Falls School District to fund a different space for the children of Silverton. Maybe not a bad idea considering the age and the condition of that facility. So here is why I am voting NO on the bond. As soon as the last bond was voted down it should have been job number one of the administration and board of SFSD to find ways to build the trust back between SFSD and its patrons. Instead, they chose to run to find a way to re-present a bond to do what the other bond was designed to do. They hired a firm to hold discussions with patrons as to how they felt about the district and different plans within it. I attended one of those, one hour for 40 people to share their feelings on many issues facing the district. There were maybe 10 of us who were there for our shot at telling the SFSD how we felt. Even with only 10, not everyone was able to get their point across.  Instead of taking a year or so to rebuild trust, they found a way to present a tail-end funded bond to trick patrons into voting yes. And as far as patrons outside the town, they were thrown a bone again. Funding for safety and security issues for all seven outlying facilities that don’t even equal the budget for the furnishings for the planned new classrooms in town. There are facilities in that outlying area just as old as Eugene Field. Yet those patrons are not pushing for new facilities. The administration and most of the board has done little to see to building cooperation between ALL patrons of SFSD. There was a time when there was a sense of unity, people of the town of Silverton and the people of the rural areas saw the unique and special gifts each of those communities provided. Now with the way SFSD has gone about its two latest bond attempts, there is bound to be division.  I am voting NO on the SFSD bond, not to deprive children of  Silverton safe classrooms, but to hopefully work toward a united Silver Falls School District.

Fred Vandecoevering


Now is the time to vote yes

I am frustrated with the debate on whether or not to remodel Eugene Field or to build a new school. I am tired of the endless barrage of numbers about how much it would or should cost. After years of public input and many community task forces, the school board has deemed that building unfit to educate kids.  It’s closing and that ship has sailed. If you still don’t get why we can’t just put $10 million into it and call it a day, go back and watch the school board meetings for the last two years or read the numerous reports on the suitability of the facility.

If the root of this debate is cost to the community, isn’t that the issue we should be discussing?  What will be the cost if we do pass this bond and what will be the cost if we don’t? If we pass this bond we are looking at about $3 per $1,000 of assessed value on property.   That’s .64 cents more than we are currently paying.  That is a cost to us. What’s the alternative? Since this building is closing, where are these 500 students going?  Double shifting in other schools?  Modular buildings on existing school district properties?  That is a cost to us. What is that cost on our property values in a town that families move to for these great schools?  What is the cost in our ability to sell homes in this community?  What about the cost on our kids in the quality of education that they can get?  What about our ability to attract and retain the best teachers? Or how about the cost of not providing the technology and security upgrades at our rural schools that this bond will pay for?  What does that cost our rural kids in educational opportunities that are competitive with surrounding school districts or in a security situation when they are not mere minutes from first responders?  What is the cost on the rural school students in their preparation for our high school – which becomes more technology based each year?

The Eugene Field campus is closing.  Those students have to move.  Our rural schools are in desperate need of modern educational technologies and security.  There is going to be a cost to provide that.  There will also be a cost to us if we do not provide that by failing to pass this bond.  The question it seems is which one are we willing to pay?

Kyler Hannan


Research equals a yes vote

I want to express my strong support for Ballot Measure 24 -369 that will provide the funds to move the little 5-8 year old children out of Eugene Field and into a safer school. The Engineering Facility Report prepared for the school board by  ZCS Engineering in Oregon City is a sobering document. After translating the technical engineering terms, it becomes clear that the outer brick walls are too thin to resist earthquake shear forces and they will fail. They will move independently of each other in an earthquake, and when they will fail, it will cause a “partial roof collapse” in every section of the building.  The most dangerous area is the front door and the front lobby.  We need to think about their conclusion: “The likelihood of collapse is very high when considering exposure to a code prescribed seismic event.”  You can read their professional report at: silverfalls.orvsd.org/files/silverfalls/Eugene%20Field%20Seismic%20Evaluation%20Report%20-%201-15-2014.pdf  Or ask the SFSD office to send you an email with the attachment. We need to have a safer school for these little children – soon. We have waited long enough. Earlier this year, the Citizens Advisory Task Force examined all the issues and recommended closing EF. The school board accepted the recommendation and took a long time considering many options. They patiently listened to many concerned citizens at their meetings. The board chose a good thoughtful plan. They worked hard to keep the size of the bond in check. We need to do our part, and vote for this bond measure for the safety of those little children. ZCS Engineering stated it would cost as much to fix up the old building as it would to build a newer one. Patching up that 100 year old building on a shoestring budget will not fix the problems. It will not solve the traffic and pollution problems where it is located. I have spent my career concerned about the health and safety of people in our town. I am very concerned about Eugene Field School. Who speaks for those little children? We all do.  We need to build their new school BEFORE the earthquake, not after.  As a community, we need to finally pass this bond measure – this year. Please vote YES – and mail in your ballot.

Michael Gabe, MD

 

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