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Voters won't see school bond in 2014

While bond measures are clearly on the minds of Hillsboro School District board members, voters won’t see a measure on the ballot anytime soon.

In a work session Tuesday night, board members unanimously agreed that asking voters for money in November is not an option — but refinancing current bonds is on the table.

In November, voters rejected a $25 million bond that would have paid for technology upgrades along with a backlog of deferred maintenance and safety projects at school buildings. The discussion about asking for money from voters again this fall was brief.

“I personally don’t think we should,” said board chairwoman Kim Strelchun. “Our time and efforts would be better spent in communicating what’s coming (in several years) with the construction bond.”

“I think [a November 2014 bond measure] would be seen as pestering the public,” added board member Erik Seligman.

Plans call for at least three new elementary schools and a middle school to be built in the South Hillsboro area, a 1,400-acre planned development south of Tualatin Valley Highway. When complete, the area could have as many as 10,000 dwelling units and more than 40,000 residents.

School district officials have said a construction bond will be needed by 2018 to begin building those schools, and the district already owns the land where the schools could go.

To lay the groundwork for putting a 2017 construction bond measure request in front of voters, the board agreed to proceed with refinancing two current bonds to shorten their maturity date. By refinancing, those bonds will be paid off in 2018, a move that will save the district an estimated $6.5 million, said Adam Stewart, the district’s chief financial officer. Further, refinancing allows the district to keep its debt service at a steady $2.45 per $1,000 of assessed value.

While moving ahead with refinancing doesn’t require voter approval, it will require an updated budget for the 2014-15 school year, Stewart said. The budget committee, which unanimously approved the budget this month, will reconvene in June to approve an updated budget.

Board members also briefly discussed the approval of the $680 million bond measure May 20 in the Beaverton School District. Looking ahead to the possibility of a 2017 bond measure in Hillsboro, board member Janeen Sollman said full support from board members is key to passing a bond.

“One hundred percent participation from all board members is important,” Sollman said. “I think that’s important, the public knowing that leaders on the board support the bond.”

Seligman disagreed.

“I had some fundamental disagreements with the last [campaign]. I think 100 percent participation from board members is too stringent,” he said.