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Bond backers – Political action committee forming to support SFSD bond

By Stephen Floyd

Supporters of a $138 million facilities bond for the Silver Falls School District are forming a Political Action Committee (PAC) to engage in voter outreach ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

While as of the Our Town press deadline the PAC had yet to be registered with the state, former members of the district’s Bond Advisory Committee said efforts were under way to make the group official.

Former bond committee member Hilary Dumitrescu explained that because the district is barred by law from engaging in political activity, it falls to community members to spread the word.

“Our students and their teachers deserve safe, warm, dry, welcoming, beautiful spaces to work and learn in every day,” said Dumitrescu.

The SFSD board voted unanimously June 20 to place the bond on the ballot, asking voters to approve funds for repairs and upgrades at all school facilities. On the to-do list are upgrades to critical systems at each school, as well as the rebuilding of Silverton Middle School.

Dumitrescu said though the $138 million price tag may sound high, it comes out to around $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If the bond is approved by voters the district may also be eligible for a one-time $4 million state grant.

“This is the cheapest way our community is going to find to pool our money and build a new middle school and make improvements on all the other ones (short of finding a billionaire with a heart of gold, that is),” Dumitrescu said.

She added if voters decide this is not the time for a bond, the schools will still need improvements and future upgrades will only become more expensive. 

That sentiment was echoed by fellow committee member Eliza Torlyn, who said waiting on repairs could also create a hazard for students.

“The longer we wait to do this work, the more it costs, the projects become more dire, and the conditions of the schools become more ominous,” she said. “…This bond is a necessary investment.”

The bond measure needs a simple majority to pass. Recent polling among likely voters in the district showed this could be a difficult hurdle to clear. Pollsters said it will be vital to educate voters about the projects funded by a bond and the public accountability that comes with bond projects. This outreach is likely to fall to the PAC.

The SFSD board is also expected to engage in outreach, as its members do not face prohibitions on political campaigning.

Board Chair Jennifer Traeger told Our Town delaying facility improvements could lead to serious building challenges that force the district’s hand. In 2018, Eugene Field School was demolished over concerns about asbestos and lead paint after voters rejected two bond measures that would have funded improvements.

“Every time we kick the can down the road, we risk creating a problem so large that only drastic action can solve it,” said Traeger.

When the PAC is registered, all board members, donations and expenditures, including individuals associated with transactions, will be public record. 

PAC information can be accessed through sos.oregon.gov/elections/.

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