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School bond: Its the right choice at the right time

Voters have an opportunity to improve the future for our children and our community in November by approving the Gresham-Barlow School Bond (Measure 26-153). It is an important opportunity that should not be missed.

Former State Rep. Matt Wand recently raised questions about whether this is the right time for this bond (“Gresham Barlow bond," Sept. 10, The Outlook).

A careful look at the facts should lead all of us to answer with a resounding yes.

The district has put forward this proposal only after thorough consideration. This is the district's first bond request in 13 years and will replace a previous expiring bond. The request was developed by a committee of 39 members of the community who held eight public forums across the district to solicit input. The district will appoint an independent citizen oversight committee to make sure bond monies are being spent properly.

Funding from the bond will provide for the future of the district. It replaces outdated textbooks, technology and equipment so students can gain the skills to find good jobs. It provides classrooms to meet growing enrollment, which is expected to rise an additional 1,200 students within a decade. And it will close elementary school portables so that we can get children safely back into regular classrooms.

Gresham High School, a centerpiece of our community, has been repeatedly expanded since 1940, including additions in 1992, 1998, and 2001. The bond provides for badly needed renovations that will integrate the buildings into one school and give students the facilities to succeed.

Placing the proposal on the ballot now also is a smart choice. With record-low interest rates and lower construction costs, acting now will save taxpayers substantially compared to kicking these repairs and upgrades down the road.

Our local economy is recovering. Gresham has added 3,800 jobs since July 2009. But sustaining this recovery requires a skilled work force that can sustain local businesses and attract new ones. That's why the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and employers across the district like Portland General Electric and Moen Machinery have endorsed the bond.

All school district’s across the state utilize local citizen approved bonds for capital expenditures like these. The state provides operations funding. Everyone agrees that our Legislature must do more to provide stable, adequate operations funding for our schools. The rising cost of health care and other benefits are taking away money best spent in the classroom.

But putting off this bond will cost our children lost years of a better education and lost savings for taxpayers. Please join me in supporting the Gresham-Barlow School bond.

Dr. Mike Hill of Gresham is a retired dentist and is a successful artist. He is chairman of Citizens for Schools, which has successfully conducted many campaigns for the Gresham-Barlow Shool District over the last 25 years.



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