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By the numbers: SFSD $138 million bond measure rejected by the voters

By Stephen Floyd

More than 7,700 ballots were cast and $23,000 donated for Measure 24-486 on the ballot in the Nov. 7 election.

Had it passed, the measure would have raised more than $138 million for facility improvements throughout the Silver Falls School District (SFSD). According to election results published Nov. 17, the measure was failing by 55.71% out of 7,713 votes recorded.

Our Town dug into the numbers behind the result to learn who supported the measure, who stood against it and how it compared to past bond efforts.

High voter turnout

As of Nov. 17, voter turnout in Marion County for Measure 24-486 was at 50.81%, well above the county-wide turnout of 31.76%. This compares to 23% county-wide for the 2023 May Primary and 61.46% for the 2022 General Election.

Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess said the high turnout for Measure 24-486 was not unusual because Silverton typically has more voter participation than the rest of the county. He said tax measures also tend to drive more turnout than non-tax issues.

This year’s total was higher than in May of 2013 when 47.08% of SFSD voters turned out for a $36.9 million facilities bond, which failed by 56.42%. In November of 2014 a scaled down version of the 2013 bond at $24.9 million saw 77.06% local voter turnout and failed by 55.79%.

Who voted ‘Yes’?

Out of 14 voter precincts within SFSD, just one saw a majority of support for Measure 24-486.

Precinct 635, located in the southern half of Silverton and served by Robert Frost Elementary School, saw 55.19% out of 2,417 voters support the bond with 55.81% voter turnout. 

The precinct has the highest number of registered Democrats at 32.6%, followed by non-affiliated voters at 31.7% and Republicans at 28.7%.

In the northern half of Silverton is Precinct 625, which spans the boundaries of both Robert Frost and Mark Twain Elementary School. While it is mathematically accurate to say a majority of voters in Silverton supported the bond, a majority of Precinct 625 did not, with 50.64% of 1,495 voters opposed and a 46.72% voter turnout.

The largest group of registered voters in this precinct are non-affiliated at 35.7%, followed by Democrats at 28.8% and Republicans at 28.2%.

Who voted ‘No’?

The 12 precincts served by the outlying K-8 schools voted down the bond by large majorities, with a combined 64.69% of 3,805 voters rejecting the measure. Voter turnout varied broadly between these precincts ranging from 32.05% to 64.29%, and between all 12 came to 47.04%.

The outlying precincts have 46.1% of combined voters registered Republican, followed by 32.8% non-affiliated, 21.1% Democrat.

The area with the strongest opposition by percentage was Precinct 330B in Clackamas County, served by Butte Creek School and Scotts Mills School. Voters here opposed the bond by 71.89% out of 498 votes, with 35.17% voter turnout.

Precinct 615 in Scotts Mills proper also saw a high percentage with 71.54% of 123 voters opposed and 39.8% voter turnout.

The largest opposition by volume came from Precinct 681, comprising the westernmost parts of the district and served by Scotts Mills and Silver Crest School. Out of 1060 ballots cast, 660 were against, or 65.98%, with 50.91% voter turnout.

The lowest percentage of opposition was in Precinct 680, which includes the westernmost portions of SFSD and is served by Central Howell School and Pratum School. Here the bond saw 60.45% opposition out of 134 voters and 48.20% voter turnout.

$275,000 for consultants

SFSD has spent $275,600 on consultants since July 1, 2022, for services related to bond development and information campaigns. This equated to 0.2% of proposed bond revenue.

Services included experts to advise for the Bond Advisory Committee, planning and facilitation of community town hall meetings, voter polling, and public communications.

Consultants included Colonna Education Consulting Services, Wright Public Affairs, Patinkin Research and Wenaha Group. The district’s contracts with these agencies do not extend beyond the current bond.

When asked if this expenditure was worthwhile, district spokespeople said they stand by their process even with the bond’s failure and will continue seeking expert advice as the need arises. 

$23,000 donated for support

Silver Falls Neighbors for Schools, a political action committee (PAC) organized Sept. 18 in support of the bond, received $23,552 in donations.

More than half came from donors associated with the construction and development industries. This included $5,000 from Shannon Parker with Pence Contractors, $2,500 from Ben Johnston with Johnco Investments, $2,500 from Bric Architecture, $2,000 from Cornerstone Management Group and $1,000 from SAJ Architecture.

Other donors included members of the SFSD Board including $1,000 from Tom Buchholz, $350 from Owen Von Flue and $250 from Jennifer Traeger.

Expenditures totaled $21,847 and included $13,392 to Wright Public Affairs for general promotions including yard signs, brochures, social media ads and media management. There was also $3,636 to Our Town for advertising and $2,125 to Jonathan Case for artwork.

PAC members also applied $1,280 to their personal expenditures, leaving an ending cash balance of $1,705.

$3,500 ceiling for opposition

No on 24-486 was formed in opposition to the bond Oct. 10 by area farmer Karl Dettwyler. The PAC was registered with a certificate of limited contributions, which under Oregon law means there is no requirement to publicly report financial activity if total donations are below $3,500. 

Records must still be kept, including donations and expenditures, and if donations exceed $3,500 these transactions must be reported publicly. As of press time, PAC transactions for No on 24-486 were not public.

When asked if he was willing to detail donations, Dettwyler told Our Town PAC supporters were “a handful of small donors beside myself [who] have completed what the state requires in regards to disclosure.” 

Dettwyler said the PAC was formed in response to residents asking about campaign signs opposing the bond, and because of the state’s individual spending limit of $250 on campaign activities.

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