Nov. 3, 2018 — When I first returned to Florence and began covering sports for the Siuslaw News in 1998, it was a surreal experience to walk the same halls and past the same blue lockers I left behind as a Siuslaw High School graduate in 1984.
Though it may be true that you can never go home again, the experience of walking through those same metal doors, past the library and courtyard, and into the gymnasium was about as close as I can imagine to doing just that.
Over the course of the last 21 years, I've also watched each of our four children walk those same halls and cram their books into many of the same lockers I once did.
Aside from new murals and some cosmetic upgrades, little has changed there in the 38 years since I tossed my graduation cap into the air.
But the truth is, things have changed.
Outside of the time capsule that is Siuslaw High School, an educational and technological infrastructure within a globalized world has been developing at an exponential rate — and the current infrastructure at our high school is like trying to use a rotary phone in a digital network.
In all honesty, I have been on the fence about the school bond measure. I understand the concerns community members have over the enormous price tag of this project.
In my mind, property owners regularly have to shoulder an unfair burden of cost for these types of projects — which is the subject for a future editorial.
That being said, I’d like to clarify a few things.
To begin with, the final cost of the bond will be $2.72 per $1,000 of assessed value.
There seems to be some con fusion on that, and a misunderstanding between the net increase and actual cost.
The .90 cents that is currently being paid on the 20-year middle school bond, which will expire this June — will not reduce $2.72 down to $1.82.
With the .90 cents property tax payers have already been paying, the new bond will “only” be felt as a net increase of $1.82 over what property owners have already been paying.
That puts the actual cost at $2.72 per $1,000 of assessed value, or just under $550 per year for a $200,000 home.
That is still a lot of money.
That being said, bonds will be issued as needed for construction. Considering the first year to year-and-a-half will be dedicated primarily to planning, that means taxpayers should see little change until 2020.
Here are some things to consider. Given our current push for additional housing development, it stands to reason that more property owners will be able to share the tax burden — meaning smaller bond payments for individual property owners.
Also, the bond measure includes a 10 percent contingency in addition to the inflation costs already anticipated within the bond. Because of that, there’s a good chance the contingency won’t be needed — and property owners will see that 10 percent cut from their tax burden.
I certainly understand why some would choose to vote aganst this additional tax payment, regardless of the factors I’ve mentioned; more money is more money.
However, the core issues our aging school facilities face aren't going to get better. In the meantime, as our community grows, so will the number of students graduating from Siuslaw High School with an education based on limitations rather than options.
When you add in factors such as structural concerns regarding seismic activity, and a lack of safety measures in the event of an active shooter situation, the notion of “going home again” seems less important than the idea of creating a home that is safe and productive one for future generations of our students.