Yoncalla refers $8 million bond to voters, ties measure to matching funds
Yoncalla's school board decided Wednesday to refer an $8 million bond to voters renovate the high school and improve elementary school safety, but tied the bond to a state matching grant to sweeten the deal.
Even if voters approve the measure this May, the district will not go out for general obligation bonds unless the district is also successful in capturing another $4 million in matching funds from the state of Oregon. If the bond is successful, the $8 million bond would increase Yoncalla property taxes by $1.86 per $1,000 assessed property value.
If the measure passes and matching state funds are guaranteed, the total $12 million project would include:
- Solving water drainage problems around the high school and a total renovation of Yoncalla High School, which would extend its life for another 50 years
- Adding and expanding high school classrooms for greater vocational programs, a new multipurpose space, library and commons area that would serve as both a cafeteria and study space for students
- Upgrading wire and cable systems that will improve technology access for all Yoncalla students
- Improving energy efficiency and overall maintence costs at the high school by replacing the heating and ventilation, electrical systems and windows
- Improving safety and security at the high school by limiting access to campus, adding automatic door locks and sprinkler systems
- Improving parking and bus access at the high school (a necessary improvement to address water drainage problems at the high school); AND
- Improving safety and security at the elementary school by moving the playground to the same side of the street as the school.
District officials are eagerly awaiting word about Yoncalla's bid for state matching funds. Currently Yoncalla School District is next on a state priority list of schools with facility needs and high poverty.
Yoncalla would get matching funds if any one of the 10 higher-listed districts doesn't go out for a bond in the May election, or voters quash other districts' measure at the ballot box. To maintain their priority status, the top 10 school districts on the list have until March 1 to secure a board-approved resolution to include a bond measure on the May ballot.
The Yoncalla School District Board of Directors passed the resolution unaimously and without board discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, in what comes as a culmination of two years of investigation into and discussion of the district's aging and failing high school.
The state matching program — new legislation to offer communities incentive to pass bonds and make major investiments into Oregon's many old and dilapidated school structures — as well as Yoncalla district's high ranking on the priority rolls comes as a happy coincidence for the North County school that has wrestled with its own facility problems for more than two years.
In 2014 the Yoncalla community received details on the age and condition of the high school, as specialists shared that the building had exceeded its useful life. Reports showed that the cost of repairs and maintenance far outpaced the district’s finances.
Over the last two years, the school district and community have explored ways to repair or replace the aging school. The community has made clear it wants its school to stay intact, so the district has reached out to architects and project managers who specialize in renovating older buildings. Those specialists worked with district staff and students to draw up a Master Facility Plan, which outlines a 10 year plan to address the current and future needs of the district.
The master plan identified $22 million of construction. The hoped-for $12 million ($8 million voter approved bonds, $4 million state matching funds) addresses the most pressing construction needs of the district.
The next Yoncalla School Board meeting has been moved from its regularly scheduled day to the second Wednesday next month and will be held at 7 p.m. March 9 in the Yoncalla High School library.
Douglas ESD Communications is assisting the Yoncalla School District with its pre-bond community survey and bond informational campaign communication work for this project.