Coos Bay voters can expect to see a $59.9 million bond measure on the November ballot that supporters say will help repair and even rebuild schools in the district.
The Coos Bay School Board says all the schools in the district have outlived their lifespans, and the upkeep is no longer cost effective.
We urge you to vote yes.
The Coos Bay School District is seeking 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 million that will pay approximately 6.25 percent of the total costs if the measure passes. 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. If passed, the bond will survive for 25 years on local property tax bills.
“One reason it is less is because the district qualifies for the $4 million grant from the state that we only get if this bond passes in November, otherwise it goes to someone else,” Martin told The World in an Oct. 4 article.
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 a marsh and has safety and structural issues.
Blossom Gulch was also built in 1954 and since has not changed.
This is the most problematic building in the Coos Bay School District. It was built on the former site of “Blossom’s Logging Camp” in a marsh that was packed with fill dirt. Not only does the building hold 600 children, but due to failing foundations the hallways don’t sit flat, stairs are separating from the pavement, and pipes are being crushed.
“This school is not ADA compliant,” said building principal, Linda Vickrey in an Oct. 28 article in The World. “We have a student in the second grade who is in a wheelchair. Our floors aren’t flat, so he’s a strong little guy because his wheelchair isn’t motorized. If people don’t push him, he wheels himself around.”
But this isn’t even the worst of the problems for the elementary school.
In January, district maintenance manager Rick Roberts provided The World with a complete list of future maintenance needs for Blossom Gulch, which included:
- siding repairs/replacement
- door and hardware replacement
- window replacement
- exterior painting
- sidewalk/stairs replacement
- parking lot repairs
- heating system upgrades/replacements
- • gym/cafeteria roof replacement
- • plumbing replacements
- • asbestos pipe insulation abatement
- • waste line replacement
- • electrical capacity upgrades
- • technology cabling upgrades
- • ADA upgrades
- • asbestos floor tile abatement
- • seismic upgrades
- • foundation stabilization
“When you experience the building every day, you get desensitized,” Roberts said in a previous interview. “When you ask what's wrong, well . . . it's all wrong.”
“The bottom line is this place isn’t stable,” Vickrey said.
However, members and supporters of the Coos County Republican Central Committee, remains united against the bond measure regardless of how hard the campaign pushes to answer questions from voters.
The committee’s vice chair, Ron Wiggins, pointed out in an Oct. 31 World article 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.”
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.
Let’s move forward and show our pride in our community. Vote yes for Coos Bay schools.