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Council backs school district bond

Although the issue won’t be decided until voters get their ballots for the upcoming general election in November, members of the Hillsboro City Council have decided to get out in front on what they see as a critically important issue.

With a 6-0 vote on the evening of Aug. 20, the council members offered their support for the Hillsboro School District’s proposed $25 million capital construction maintenance bond, which will be on the Nov. 5 ballot — and they did so enthusiastically.

“I wholeheartedly endorse this measure,” said council member Steve Callaway. “It’s desperately needed in the district, and absolutely needed in the community.”

“It is very much needed in our community to bring up our students,” added Aron Carleson, president of the council.

In June, the school board voted to place a general obligation bond measure on the November ballot. The decision to ask the voters for assistance comes after several years of deferring maintenance for school facilities district-wide.

“Since the economic recession began in 2008, the district has reduced nearly $70 million from its general fund budget due to annual gaps between revenue and expenditures,” read an excerpt of a written summary prepared by the Hillsboro School District that will appear in the forthcoming Washington County Voters’ Pamphlet.

The ballot measure will be worded as follows: “Shall Hillsboro School District No. 1J be authorized to issue general obligation bonds not exceeding $25,000,000 with citizen oversight? If the bonds are approved, they will be payable from taxes on property or property ownership that are not subject to the limits of sections 11 and 11b, Article XI of the Oregon Constitution.”

The bond would be repaid by school district property owners over five years at a cost of approximately 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation per year. Property owners would see the new property tax starting in November 2014, and the tax would continue through November 2018.

If approved by voters in November, the school district anticipates spending approximately $17 million of the new property tax revenue on technology purchases for students and staff (computers, devices, projection equipment). Another $4 million would be used for safety enhancements at school sites, including security cameras, line of sight improvements, interior locking doors, card-key access; and approximately $4 million more would go to pay for major building maintenance projects, such as seismic upgrades and replacement of roofs.

No additional staff members would be funded by the bond.

Carleson said she believes it is essential that the city of Hillsboro continues to invest in schools.

“The partnerships with our schools are vital and, given the importance of high-tech companies in our community, we need to upgrade technology to prepare our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Carleson said. “We also want to be sure that our students, and the buildings they spend their days in, are safe. We are committed to working together to ensure that our students succeed in Hillsboro.”

Janeen Sollman, a member of the Hillsboro School Board, said she was excited about the council’s unanimous backing of the bond measure.

“I’m incredibly appreciative of the city’s support for the schools and the city’s willingness to step up,” Sollman said.

Mayor Jerry Willey noted that the city of Hillsboro provides a number of services to the local school district, including funding five school resource officers; investing in after-school programs and scholarships for Hillsboro students; and providing city-owned athletic facilities for student-athletes.

“I am proud that the city of Hillsboro invests so heavily in our local students,” said Willey. “The city provides more than $1.3 million of in-kind benefits to local schools each year.”

The text of the resolution the city council approved last week reiterated the reasons why members of the Hillsboro City Council believe the bond measure deserves the community’s support.

“A strong school system is essential for the health of the Hillsboro community and area businesses, and creates a foundation that makes Hillsboro a great place to live, work and play,” read an excerpt.

“It’s so important to the city to have an effective school district,” said council member Megan Braze.

The Hillsboro School District is the fourth largest school district in Oregon, with more than 20,000 students in a total of 36 schools.




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