The Union School District’s aging buildings may be receiving major upgrades in the near future.
The Union School Board passed a resolution Wednesday night authorizing its school district to file a measure with the Union County Clerk’s Office seeking voter approval of a $4 million bond levy in the Nov. 5 election.
Money from the bond would pay for maintenance work that would include new roofs for the high school gym and the grade school’s S.E. Miller and J.F. Hutchinson buildings; key card systems to control access into buildings; energy-efficiency improvements such as new windows and upgrades to the heating and ventilation systems; and upgrades to the high school gym and athletic complex.
The upgrades are needed primarily because of the age of the Union School District’s buildings. Its high school was built in 1912, and the Hutchinson building was constructed in the late 1920s or early 1930s. The S.E. Miller building and the gym were built in the 1950s.
“(The projects that would be paid for by the bond) would preserve the viability of the school district for the next 20 years,” said Union School District Superintendent Carter Wells.
Wells speaks about the $4 million bond with a sense of urgency not just because the school district’s buildings are aging. He noted just after the school board meeting that Union School District recently was awarded a grant from the Oregon School Capital Improvement matching program that will provide a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $4 million for its bond should voters approve it. This means if voters pass the $4 million bond levy, the school district will receive a total of $8 million for building construction. The catch is that the offer of the matching grant is good only through the November election. Should the bond be rejected by voters, the matching grant would no longer be available to the Union School District, but it could reapply for it.
The Union School District has been attempting to get this grant for years.
“We have been applying for it three times a year (for at least three years),” Wells said.
If passed, the bond levy would cost landowners in the Union School District $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value over a 20-year period. This means that the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $110 in property taxes a year.
The Union School District filed for the bond levy election on Thursday. The filing information will next be sent to the Union County District Attorney’s office, which will write the ballot title that would appear on the ballot for the bond levy measure. Once the ballot title is written, it will then be published in The Observer. If nobody challenges the ballot title in the seven days after it is published, the measure will be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election, said Union County Clerk Robin Church.
The double majority rule will be in effect if the measure makes the ballot. This means, Church said, that the measure would not pass unless the majority of the registered voters in the Union School District vote on the measure in the Nov. 5 election.
Wells, who has been with the school district for 10 years, the last five as superintendent, said he hopes the school levy becomes a reality in part because it would help put the school district in position to thrive for many decades to come.
“I want (the school district) to have the same impact on the community down the road that it has had on me,” the superintendent said.