Protesters with the Coos County Republican Central Committee gathered on the Coos Bay Boardwalk, braving the wind and rain Saturday, to show opposition of bond measure 6-166.
If voters approve, the bond would fund renovations to make local schools safer and better equipped. However, these renovations would come at a significant property tax increase for the people of Coos Bay.
Protest organizer and vice chairman of the Coos County Republican Party Ron Wiggins said, “The thing we’re mostly upset about is that this bond measure that the school board put up again is going to put the people who can least afford it in a very bad situation. All the elderly folks, retired folks who live on a fixed income that are going to be faced with a huge increase in their property taxes.”
Property taxes would increase $1.60 on every $1,000 of property value. On a $200,000 home, this would mean an increase of $320.
This measure is very similar to a measure that was voted on last March and lost by only 35 votes out of 7,000 cast. The main difference being the old measure purposed $1.85 on every $1,000 worth of property value.
The most costly part of the school boards plan is building a new facility for the students at Blossom Gulch Elementary School, which will cost around $20 million.
“I’ve been here long enough to know that they have a really nice elementary school up on the hill called Milner Crest. Blossom Gulch is sitting on a swamp, they’ve known that, it’s sinking. Milner Crest is beautiful school that they shut down because they didn’t have a high enough volume of students to justify keeping it open and they moved in administration,” Wiggins said.
Coos Bay School District Board member James Martin explained that using Milner Crest instead of Blossom Gulch is not a current or cost effective option.
“Our administrative offices are in the Milner Crest elementary school… It is on a very small site. We anticipate that sometime in the future we’ll have to open that back up as an elementary school. There are 600 kids at Blossom Gulch, and there is no way that Milner Crest could take more than a fraction of those kids as it is now, which means if we wanted to open there would be even more expense,” Martin said.
“They will always claim that this is for the children, but we don’t believe that’s what their interest is,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins and fellow protestors believe that tax revenue gained by the measure will not solely be used to renovate schools as the plan suggests.
“This is not bureaucrats or career politicians in Salem or Washington taking our money and sending it somewhere else for some other purpose. This is about the people here in Coos Bay deciding what we want to do with our money, and keeping it here in this community to create a safe and secure environment for our kids,” Martin said.
According to Martin there are only three buildings in the Coos Bay School district that are less than 50 years old. The classroom portion of Sunset Middle School was rebuilt after a fire burned it down in the early 1990s. The Math and science building was rebuilt after the ceiling began collapsing in 1998. Finally the multi-purpose building at Bunker Hill was rebuilt after the prior building was condemned.
“Fire, collapse, and condemnation is how we got our last three new buildings. Let’s not wait until we get to that point,” Martin said.
Wiggins argues that the community just can’t afford the tax increase. Pointing out that an increase in taxes will raise rent in the area, as well as the costs of goods and services.
“It’s like they hold taxpayers hostage. When we campaign against their measures they claim that we’re against kids and against education, we’re not,” Wiggins said.
Offering alternatives to public school renovations Wiggins argued that parents need to take more responsibility for their children’s education and not leave it to the government. Saying that there are alternative options to public schools like charter schools, home schooling, and online schooling.
There’s only about two weeks left until the Nov. 7 election, when voters of Coos Bay will decide whether or not they want to put their money toward improving schools.