With the passage of the contentious $59.9 million dollar school bond initiative, certified Tuesday, it is time to move forward and once again take pride our community and our schools.
While many argued that the bond would add an undue financial burden to property owner, particularly elderly resident on a fixed income, the urgent need for repairs to our schools is more pressing.
All the schools in the district have outlived their lifespans, and the upkeep is no longer cost effective.
The Coos Bay School District will provide capital funds to replace old deficient buildings that have served their purpose, but are well beyond the lives they were designed for. If approved, the bond proceeds would be used as follows:
• Construct a new Eastside Elementary School to replace Blossom Gulch Elementary School. This would include tearing down the old Eastside Elementary School. The new elementary school will be co-located near the existing Millicoma Intermediate School to facilitate sharing as many resources as possible.
• Additions to Madison Elementary School to replace temporary classrooms and restrooms and to increase instructional space.
• Construction of a new 7th-8th grade building where the Harding Building currently is located. This would include demolition of the existing building except for the gym and rebuilding a modern junior high school and an additional gym/multi-purpose room.
• Renovations to Madison, Sunset and Millicoma Schools to improve safety, security, accessibility, efficiency, and building systems.
The estimated cost to the taxpayers of the school district is $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed value for 25 years. The cost estimate is down from $1.85 per $1,000 in the previous measure, because the district applied for matching funds and was successful in obtaining a state grant of $4,000,000 that will pay approximately 6.25 percent of the total costs. Favorable interest rate conditions in the intervening months were also a contributing factor to reducing the projected levy rate.
During last May’s election, the bond measure failed by 34 votes. The initiative passed Nov. 7 by an even slimmer 28-vote margin. The bond will survive for 25 years on local property tax bills.
This is a decision that was put off nearly a decade ago when, understandably, the local economy was in such poor shape that voters couldn’t see their way to supporting another bond request. But just because you choose not to pay the bill doesn’t mean that the need goes away. Indeed, the need grows inevitably.
And our economy has shown improvement. It has not as much as some would prefer, but there has been improvement nevertheless. School enrollments continue to grow, not shrink. That proves more families are coming here, and they will expect safe, secure schools for their children.
The district’s No. 1 priority is Blossom Gulch Emlementary. The building is at over capacity with a failing foundation because it was built on marsh and has safety and structural issues.
Blossom Gulch was also built in 1954 and since has not changed.
A community is judged by many measures. One of the most important, at least to those who look for stability, is the condition of its educational system. And one of the measures of that system is the quality of its facilities.
Clearly the winner in this election is Coos Bay's schools.