It's no secret that Bend (and La Pine, too) is poised for more population growth in the years to come. If the explosive population growth we've seen already isn't enough to convince, then data from Portland State University's Population Research Center might suffice. According to that data, the Bend-La Pine district is going to need four new elementary schools, one middle school and one new high school by the year 2035, just to manage enrollment at its current levels.
But walk into nearly any classroom in the district today and you'll already see overcrowding. In the case of our high schools, that sometimes means as many as 50+ students in a room at one time, teachers tell us.It doesn't take a team of population experts to tell you that new schools are necessary, and that they're going to cost money.
In fact, we venture to say the proposed school bond—which we fully support—is not enough to fully fund the necessary facilities the region will need during this time of great population growth. And let's not get started on where the money for paying staff for that growing student population is coming from.
Meanwhile, the schools we already do have—most notably, some of the older schools in the district—are in need of upgrades to electrical wiring, roofs, plumbing, heating and cooling systems. With upgrades to HVAC and lighting systems, schools may even be able to shave some dollars from their operating budgets. District officials don't have specific figures, but estimate energy savings in the "tens of thousands"—money saved, which could arrive back in the operational budget. Some of those upgrades may have seemed less acutely important before we saw the roof of the Kenwood School gym collapse, but today, seem to us like absolute musts in the interest of student safety.
While we urge the district to be vigilant in its attention to the connection between facility safety and student success, we know they can only do so much within current budgetary constraints.The bond, at $268.3 million, would add .44 cents per $1,000 of taxable value to property tax rates over the life of the bond, amounting to roughly $7 per month for a home valued at $200,000. It's a big price tag—but one that comes with the promise of auditing along the way.
Since Oregon's school funding model doesn't offer funds for new construction from the state coffers, it falls upon local people to fund the construction of local schools. In short, this bond is currently the only viable way to ensure our students have the facilities they desperately need.
Vote yes for the Bend-La Pine Schools 2017 Bond Measure.
For more info on the Bond, go here.