To bond or not to bond?

A conversation with Siuslaw students & staff

Oct. 30, 2018 — Measure 20-291: Bonds to Construct and Upgrade School Facilities, Improve Safety

Shall Siuslaw School District issue $108,700,000 in general obligation bonds to construct, expand and remodel facilities, improve safety, and enhance curriculum? If the bonds are approved, they will be payable from taxes on property or property ownership that are not subject to the limits of sections 11 and 11 b, Article XI of the Oregon Constitution.

The vote for the Siuslaw School Bond is fast approaching, and for the undecided voter that has trouble deciding which side to choose, I have this article to highlight what both sides have to say equally, as this article is neither in favor nor against the bond.

This October, I decided to interview a couple of people within the school to see what their thoughts were about November’s school bond. I asked them questions that refer mostly to the high school.

First, a couple of facts about the bond. Its total value is over $108 million, with the main focus a new high school. If the bond passes, there will be a $4,472 decrease in annual maintenance costs once the new high school is completed.

To start off the interview with everyone I had, I asked: “Do you think it is ok for the central focus of the bond to be the high school?”

All but one of the interviewees agreed that it is a necessity for the high school to be the central focus of the bond.

One staff member said that it shouldn’t be a necessity for the central focus of the bond to be the high school because he believes that he sees a “larger infrastructure spending for Siuslaw School District, where the high school gets the lion share of the money.”

Another staff member who agreed with the question claimed, “That the high school needs to be completely renovated.”

This does make sense, since one of the students said, “The roofs are rotting, there’s water damage and people walk on gum every day. And it’s just so cold because we don’t have the proper heating systems that are necessary for our school.”

Another student said that the water boilers “have been broken for 20+ years.”

The next question I asked was, “What are some additional things that you would like to see implemented or removed from the bond?”

All those interviewed were satisfied with what the bond offered if passed, although one requested that a separate choir/band room be built.

The next question I asked was, “What are your thoughts of the high school not meeting current ORS standards?”

In a nutshell, these are requirements that every high school in Oregon should have. All interviewees claimed along the lines that it is embarrassing, unacceptable and behind on time.

One staff member who came here as a student in the 1980s remembers the high school being “adequate for size and function.” However, the teacher added, “After teaching in this building for 26 years, I feel we have not kept up with the technology demands we are asking of our students.”

They also pointed out that “Most people can’t use the Wi-Fi for the electronic devices without getting dumped off continuously.”

Another staff member said that if you build “without code, without earthquake measure … if we don’t adjust to these things, then we are doomed to suffer when these natural disasters happen.”

 A student said that “If the school isn’t meeting ORS standards then it shouldn’t be a school or should be fixed ... for the safety and well-being of the students.”

The next question I asked was, “Do you think a new high school would provide a brighter future for upcoming students entering high school?”

All of the interviewers responded that it would certainly provide a better future because it would show to the students that we care for them. This also involves more than just the community, as one staff member said: “Our village should be supporting all of our youth, not only by voting on a bond, but by volunteering in the schools and building relationships to get to know our youth. We should all see them as important members in our society and invest in them.”

Another staff member said that a new high school would offer “more stuff for the students to take” and it “could allow us to align better with the colleges.”

A third staff member agreed, saying that it “helps the entire community.”

He pointed out economic spending and summarized by saying, “A lot of the money from this is going to come out of the community into firms that come in, but people who come in and work will be spending and living in our communities for over two years, and that’s going to bring our property values up. A good state-of-the-art school is going to keep our property values up.”

He also said that he wouldn’t mind paying more in taxes because his house will be worth more money.

To sum up the interviews, I asked all my responders the question: “Overall, do you support the bond?”

All staff members supported the bond, but surprisingly all interviews students opposed the bond. This is where things got interesting, as I was surprised to see the students thinking as both student and community members.

To start off, while one of the staff members wouldn’t mind paying more taxes, one student said that not all are going to be able to pay the increased tax. The student continued, saying that homeowners may have to end up “needing a renter that will have to pay higher prices set by the homeowner, which will drive people out of Florence.”

This in turn could provide a big loss to our economy and community.

The argument given by the adults was one staff member who said that he had a son and that he wants him to go to the “best school as possible.” He even said that if he didn’t have a kid he would still support the school bond.

Most staff said that the community should give back to education by voting on the bond.

After the interview I gave the interviewees a chance to dish out other facts that could be useful in voting for or against the bond.

One staff member heavily pointed out that if the bond isn’t passed, then our town will remain a tourist town that is dead during the winter time. They added because our school isn’t a destination school — a school that some families look at because of the upsides of going to a certain school — we won’t be able to sustain the large amount of young families in the community for long. This means that the town won’t have any new young leaders to guide the town.

Another useful argument against one student’s statement, one staff member said that even though it may seem as if we are using a large amount of money, we are going to get a majority of that money back because think of the workers, architects and construction workers that are going to come over and not just work, but stay here in the community for the next several years. And what does that mean? High demands for items we sell here in town, and what will that bring us? Money!

So overall, there are some upsides — a better financial state during and after the project is complete, and a message to students that we care for them — and the downsides — a struggle for homeowners to pay the increased taxes.

It will be interesting to see how the bond voting plays out. Let’s see if the public is in favor of its pros or against its cons.



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