Union School District Superintendent Carter Wells has a lot more on his plate than he did a day ago, but he could not be happier.
Voters passed on the higher workload to him Tuesday by overwhelmingly approving a $4 million bond to help pay for major upgrades to its buildings. Measure 31-98 passed by a margin of 324 votes, 636-332. Of those who voted, 65.7% voted yes and 34.3% voted no.
Wells said nothing he said could capture how excited he felt.
“I’m elated. I can’t express in words my emotion,” he said.
The bond levy will provide the Union School District a two-for-the-price-of-one bargain. The school district was awarded a grant from the Oregon School Capital Improvement matching program this summer that will provide a dollar-for-dollar match of $4 million for the bond. This means the school district will receive a total of
$8 million for construction. The school district would not have received the matching grant if voters had not approved the $4 million bond in the Nov. 5 mail election.
Wells has been applying for the OSCI grant three times a year for several years. This summer was the first time the Union School District was awarded the grant. Macey Clark, chair of Citizens for Union Education, a community group that campaigned for passage of Measure 31-98, said Wells is to be commended for the work he did to get the bond passed and to get the OSCI grant.
“He went above and beyond,” Clark said.
Wells said he hadn’t known what to expect going into the mail election. He said that almost everyone he talked to supported the bond, but he wondered if that was misleading since so many of the people he talked to were tied to Union’s schools who would be inclined to vote for the bond.
He said the people of Union should be proud of the way they stepped forward to support the bond.
“The future of the Union School District is bright because of our community’s support,” Wells said. “It has made the school district viable for the future.”
Wells said he will be having to do more work while overseeing the bond projects, but he is excited about the prospect. The school district will have three years to spend 85% of the money. Much of it will be done during the summer months when school is not in session and the weather is better.
Clark said the $8 million will boost the quality of the Union School District’s facilities to a level equal to that of the high-quality education students are already receiving.
“I’m so excited for the kids,” said Clark, who added that she was grateful for the community support the bond received.
She encourages community members to attend future school board meetings so they can give input on how the $8 million is spent.
The average tax rate will be $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the levy. This means that the owner of a $100,000 house in the school district will pay $110 more a year in property taxes. The bond will be paid for over a period not to exceed 21 years.
The upgrades the bond will cover are needed primarily because of the age of the Union School District’s buildings. The high school was built in 1912 and the J.F. Hutchinson building in the late 1920s or early 1930s. The S.E. Miller building and the high school gym were constructed in the 1950s.
The double majority rule was not in effect for the election, but it would not have mattered if it was since about 52.6% of the voters in the Union School District participated, said Union County Clerk Robin Church. When the double majority rule is in effect, a bond cannot pass if less than 50% of the voters participated in the election.