How will it work?
The proposed master plan for school replacement has been developed with lots of thought to controlling annual cost to taxpayers and to assuring replacement of schools over a reasonable time period.
In Oregon, school construction is financed through general obligation bonds. These bonds are sold to investors and paid back over time with property taxes.
North Wasco County School District proposes one request: to ask voter approval to issue bonds five times over the course of 20 years. The Dalles High School has been identified for replacement first, with an elementary school to follow about every five years.
The fifth bond sale would be used to fund repairs and upgrades to The Dalles Middle School and any projects that were not completed under earlier bond sales.
Total cost of the plan is estimated at about $235 million over 20 years with repayment completed 30 years after that.
One advantage of this master plan is that we can structure bond repayment to maintain a total school bond tax rate of $2.99 or less per thousand dollars of taxable value.
One important factor of the structured bonding authority is that most district taxpayers would only see an increase in their rate of about $1.34 per thousand from current tax levels. This is because more than two thirds of taxpayers are already paying $1.65 per thousand for The Dalles Middle School.
Residents of the former Chenowith District have not been paying on that bond under the current district’s formation agreement. They pay zero now, so they will experience the full increase of $2.99 per thousand. If this bonding authority passes, all district taxpayers will pay the same rate for schools.
Using conventional, individual bond elections to finance schools over the same period, the rate would start out slightly lower but increase every five years to almost $4.50 per thousand, according to bond counsel. We believe voters would find that number too high. While we might succeed in our first election, the likelihood of failure would increase over time.
To protect resident interests, the district is recruiting a group of responsible citizens to serve as a Bond Oversight Committee. This committee would be long-term advisers, assuring that decisions taken about the bond keep the best interests of citizens and taxpayers in mind.
Bonding strategy is new to us, but it isn’t without precedent. Bend voters recently approved a similar plan.
We think this is a well-reasoned, cost-conscious approach that will result in schools that set the tone for our community’s future.