How much will a new school bond cost me?
A new $15 million bond to replace the seismically challenged current Middle School, upgrade electrical, plumbing, heating/ventilation systems, improve safety and security and saving on operating costs in many of the other buildings will cost taxpayers an estimated $2.29 per thousand of assessed value.
This is nine cents more per thousand than you paid in taxes for schools on your 2012-2013 tax bill. For a property owner whose assessed value is $100,000 the increase amounts to $9.00 per year. For a $200,000 assessed value, $18.00 per year.
The $2.29 is an estimate because the school bond tax rate changes as the total value of assessed property in the Corbett School District changes. Multnomah County determines this assessment in September-October each year.
By comparison the average rate, since 1991, on the 1994 school bond that built the elementary school has been $2.58 per thousand.
What is the Facilities Steering Committee?
The Facilities Steering Committee (FSC) was appointed by the District in January 2013 to study the conditions of Corbett School buildings, educational objectives and enrollment projections, future school and community use of the buildings, and to make a recommendation to the school board about a possible school construction bond.
The 40-member FSC is comprised of a cross-section of Corbett residents including parents and alumni of Corbett Schools, business and property owners, and school administrators and teachers. It includes architects, building contractors and construction managers who are also Corbett residents.
The committee met seven times between February 21 and June 13, 2013 and held three community meetings to present their findings and get additional input from the wider Corbett community. They reviewed the findings about the condition and safety of Corbett schools produced by professional architects and structural and mechanical engineers and options for a new construction bond from the bond underwriter who managed the District’s 1994 bond that built the Elementary School.
The FSC recommended a school construction bond in the amount of $18 million that included some improvements to the District’s athletic fields. The School Board eventually asked voters to approve a $15 million bond, without the athletic improvements, after a voter survey revealed stronger support for the lower amount and a lesser impact on individual tax rates.
Isn’t it cheaper to rebuild, rather than replace, the existing Middle School?
The Facilities Steering Committee studied this issue and concluded that replacing the existing Middle School with a building with the same size classroom space (15,000 square feet) was actually cheaper ($5.5 million for a remodel vs. $5.2 million for a new building). Based on the educational needs, the Committee recommended that the District pursue a bond to build a slightly larger replacement building (approximately 20,000 square feet) at a cost of approximately $5.1 to $6.2 million.
With a bigger replacement building, does that mean that Corbett will bring in even more out-of-district students?
The replacement building is intended to serve as a new high school and will include space for new science rooms, an art classroom and other flexible classroom space to accommodate future needs. Additional classroom space will be constructed in the expanded 1970 Gym along with additional storage space for educational and athletic uses.
With the replacement of the current Middle School and the reconfiguration of space in the current High School and Gym, the total number of additional classrooms is expected to be four. The Facilities Steering Committee was explicit in their recommendation to the School Board that Corbett remain a small school district:
“These projects are intended to support the current student population of approximately 1250 students and the classroom and athletic needs of this size student population.”
– FSC Recommendation to the School Board June 13, 2013
“I heard that the District wants to use money from the bond to purchase the ServPro building. How does that save money or improve safety?
The District can save money on the cost of construction of the replacement for the Middle School, improve safety for students, staff and visitors and reduce traffic congestion by acquiring this property.
The cost of constructing the replacement for the current Middle School is estimated at $250-300/square foot. The new building is estimated to include replacement storage space for items currently stored in the basement and offices for the district administration (Superintendent) on the first floor. The ServPro property can be obtained at an estimated price of $60/square foot.
The ServPro Building (12,000 square feet) is located at 36039 East Historic Columbia River Highway across from the Post Office and adjacent to the Softball field. The ServPro building is in very good condition and has been improved and well maintained by its current owners. The District can save money on the cost of the construction of the replacement for the current Middle School with the purchase of the ServPro land and building.
Re-locating the District administration offices to the ServPro building, and the increased storage available in it, will allow for the construction of a smaller replacement for the Middle School, and locating it back father south from its current location. In addition, by relocating the Bus Barn to the west side of the campus, the District estimates that an additional 80-100 parking spaces can be installed in the area around the gym. This will ease traffic congestion and help improve safety for students, staff and visitors.
How come the Facilities Steering Committee didn’t include the purchase of the ServPro property in its report and why weren’t voters asked about it in the survey?
The Committee and survey respondents identified saving money on construction and operating costs and improving safety as high priorities. Purchasing the ServPro property is consistent with those priorities.
District officials had only preliminary discussions with the ServPro owners before the end of June. Since then, these discussions have moved to a stage where negotiations can begin. The Committee work and survey were all completed before then.
Why does the Bus Barn need to be moved from its current location?
The Bus Barn is too small to accommodate the District’s modern busses; the building contains asbestos and is currently located in an area where it is an obstacle to safe and efficient traffic flow. Locating the Bus Barn to the west side of campus can address all three issues.
The current Bus Barn bays are too short to accommodate the larger busses that are now part of the District’s bus fleet, maintenance is often performed on them outside, posing hazards to the maintenance staff, students and visitors, particularly in the winter months. The Bus Barn also contains some maintenance and janitorial supplies and equipment that could be more efficiently located in remodeled space in a building on the main campus where they are most regularly used. Finally, the presence of asbestos-containing material in the Bus Barn is a hazard.
Traffic flow and circulation is also a major issue. The busses must compete with passenger vehicle traffic on the Highway to exit the bus parking area and get into position to pick-up and drop off students. Drivers often have to wait and hour or more at the beginning and end of their shifts to return to the bus parking area. Moving the Bus Barn to the east side of campus, will allow for more efficient pick-up and drop-off, better separation of car and bus traffic and reduced wait times at the beginning and end of the school day, thus saving on operating costs.
The new Bus Barn will be designed in such a way as to be consistent with the look of other campus buildings and its visual impact from the Highway and adjacent property owners reduced through design elements and landscaping.
Why would the District contribute to the cost of a track? I thought the survey showed that voters didn’t want to pay for a track?
The Voter survey asked voters to rank the priority of different construction projects in the context of an $18 million bond. A new 8-lane track at $1.5 million was a high priority for 29% of respondents; resurfaced football, baseball and softball fields at $1.8 million for only 18%. Since the athletic improvements were the main difference between an $18 and $15 million bond, the School Board voted for the lower amount based, in part, on the survey of voter preferences.
Track advocates in the community pointed out that there has already been substantial work done to identify the costs, potential siting and private fundraising opportunities for a new track. In order to the honor the work of community members, the School Board agreed to include language in the bond that, “excess proceeds could be used to contribute to track construction. Private funds would also be solicited.”
The Board’s intent is that only after all the other seismic, fire and life safety, maintenance cost and energy saving improvements have been completed, would they consider contributing a portion of the remaining bond money to a new track, if private contributions were also raised. Prior to that, the Board would conduct a public meeting to and separate vote to authorize the expenditure of any bond dollars for a track.
How come students who transfer to Corbett from other districts don’t pay for the cost of the new school bond?
Corbett school buildings belong to Corbett taxpayers and we believe a majority of taxpayers would agree it should stay that way.
Only property taxpayers within the Corbett school district boundaries are subject to the assessment for our schools. Out-of-district student families pay those levies on their properties in their home district, even if their kids attend schools in Corbett.
State revenues from out-of-district students support the operations and maintenance of Corbett schools as well as helping to pay for teacher salaries and programs that benefit Corbett resident students. According to the Corbett Booster Club, out-of-district families are also very generous contributors to Booster Club activities that support Corbett students, in part because they realize they are getting great value through their kid’s ability to attend Corbett schools.
There isn’t any mechanism to charge out-of-district students an additional tax to pay for Corbett bonds. Even if there were a way to tax out-of-district families for Corbett bonds, wouldn’t they then also be entitled to a say in the way the money was spent?
Corbett schools belong to Corbett taxpayers. We decide what students transfer here and under what conditions. They follow our curriculum and must obey our rules and codes of conduct. We have high expectations for our students and our schools.