COOS BAY — Blue signs are scattered around town urging the public to vote down the Coos Bay BEST Bond.
These signs are being planted by members and supporters of the Coos County Republican Central Committee, a group that remains united against the bond measure regardless of how hard the campaign pushes to answer questions from voters.
The bond is appearing on the Coos Bay ballot for the Nov. 7 election, asking for $59.9 million.
If passed, it will survive for 25 years before being taken off local property taxes. During that term, it is estimated that there will be a property tax increase of $1.60 per year of each $1,000 assessed value, which is down from the amount estimated on the May ballot.
The committee’s vice chair, Ron Wiggins, pointed out that if a house is valued at $200,000 then “that’s a $320 increase in your bill.”
“I live in a small house,” he said. “I work and work long hours and pay a lot of taxes, but I’m still paying a mortgage and that property tax bill. There are others on limited fixed incomes and even if you’re renting, it will affect all renters because that will be passed on through rent. When you increase this much, it’s a huge hit.”
The World asked Wiggins and committee chairman, Rod Schilling, what other options the Coos Bay School District has if the bond doesn’t pass, but Schilling said he didn’t have that answer.
“We’re not in a position to fix the school district’s problems,” he said. “All we can offer are opinions.”
As it stands, the Coos County Republican Central Committee is advocating against more taxes in an effort to shield senior citizens on fixed incomes.
“This bond measure will put the most vulnerable people in the community at risk,” Wiggins said. “This affects everybody from the cost of their rent or home to the people who have fixed incomes. It puts people at risk financially.”
Though the bond measure and school district are nonpartisan, Wiggins grouped them under Democrats when he went to explain one of the bullet points on the committee’s formal resolution against the ballot issue. In the resolution, it reads, “Bond Measure #6-166 represents a scenario as some have painted where grandma is pushed over a cliff in her wheelchair, by uncaring parties, and it is a shameful disgrace.”
This is in reference to a 2012 TV ad created by a progressive policy group called the Agenda Project Action Fund as an attack on the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee’s Medicare proposal. It came after Mitt Romney tapped Paul Ryan as his running mate.
“We feel that this is exactly what this (bond) is doing in a more literal sense financially,” Wiggins said. “In the Coos Bay School District, I listened to numerous ads posted on Facebook and a lot of different places where they have kids in the ad saying we need this. I don’t blame the kids.”
Wiggins accused the campaign of painting a picture that the local Republican committee is “against education, against kids,” but that they aren’t.
“They were the ones that put all these 600 students into Blossom Gulch, the worst school building in the county probably,” Wiggins said. “It’s been sinking in a marsh for years. They closed down Milner Crest, they closed down Bunker Hill, they put them all there and its like, ‘See? The kids are in a jam, the building is falling down.’”
“The kids are being used,” Schilling said.
In a previous interview, school board member and BEST Bond Committee chairman James Martin said the local Republican Party’s stance on the issue is, to him, “anti-education, anti-jobs, anti-business, and anti-family because all of those things depend on having an effective and appealing school system, so those aren’t consistent with how any political party wants to be perceived.”
However, Schilling returned to the committee’s concern that the bond might be too much for senior community members, especially those who bought a house with a spouse who has since died and only relies on one social security check.
“You will never understand how many people in your neighborhood make decisions on if today they buy medicine or pay for a doctor’s visit or go to the grocery store or put fuel in their car,” he said. “I understand this is about brick and mortar buildings. There are questions after questions about this and they are out there with a sympathy and not a reasonable assumption that this is for the kids.”
But, as the BEST Bond Committee has said in previous interviews, it is about the students.
“Our issue is about our kids being in safe buildings, our kids being in school buildings that are effective so we are part of growth and the future and creating a better environment for businesses and families,” Martin said.