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Put bond on ballot.

Byline: The Register-Guard

When voters last approved a bond measure for school construction in Spring- field, school district officials thought they'd be back with another in five to seven years. That was 12 years ago. A slowdown in enrollment growth allowed a longer-than-expected interval between requests for capital funds, but a pressing need to replace run-down buildings means the district can wait no longer. The Springfield School Board should vote Monday to place a $42.7 million bond measure on the November ballot.

The money would pay for the replacement of Maple and Thurston elementary schools, both of which are outdated and crowded; students at Thurston eat lunch in their classrooms because the cafeteria is used for other purposes. Both aging schools require steadily more costly maintenance. The bonds also would finance improvements and repairs at schools throughout the district, including roofs, boilers, ventilation systems and technology upgrades.

One happy consequence of having gone 12 years without asking voters to approve funds for capital projects is that the bonds approved in 1994 are close to being paid off. The Springfield School District expects to be able to issue $42.7 million in new bonds without increasing the property tax rate for debt repayment - the rate would stay at its current level of 97 cents per $1,000 of property value.

In order to avoid an increase in the tax rate, the district must limit the size of its bond proposal. A committee examining Springfield schools' capital needs over the next 20 years came up with a list of projects costing $80 million over a five-year period. The bond issue would pay for only half of those. But the district officials believe a $42.7 million bond can take care of the highest priority projects without raising the tax rate.

Some evidence suggests the dis- trict might have the political support to gain approval of a higher tax rate. A poll commissioned by the district found that 67 percent of voters said they would favor a $60.6 million bond proposal. Slightly fewer voters said they'd support a smaller proposal along the lines of the one the School Board will consider Monday.

Yet the board would be well-advised to stick with the $42.7 million figure. The survey showed relatively weak support for school replacement projects. A larger bond would finance the replacement of Hamlin Middle School, as well as Maple and Thurston elementary schools. The prudent course would be to seek funds for the top-priority replacement projects at Maple and Thurston and keep the tax rate level, even though that means dropping Hamlin from the list. Many voters would appreciate such restraint.

A bond issue that results in no tax rate increase would have additional appeal in November, when a variety of other tax proposals will appear on the ballot. Only the Springfield School District will be able to promise that approval of its measure would leave tax rates unchanged. That's a strong selling point, and the School Board should take advantage of it.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; The Springfield school tax rate wouldn't change
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 20, 2006
Words:504
Previous Article:First time for everything.
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