Central decides on $47.3 million bond

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Central School Board recently settled on the amount of the upcoming Central High reconstruction bond.

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Central School Board recently settled on the amount of the upcoming Central High reconstruction bond.

The board unanimously agreed on June 2 that the figure should not exceed $47.3 million, following a recommendation by Superintendent Joseph Hunter.

The slumping economy and the opportunity for a levy that wouldn't increase local property taxes beyond current levels were main factors in the decision, said Traci Hamilton, board chairwoman.

Residents will vote on the measure this November.

The funds would pay for a major reconstruction of the existing building. Two-story classroom wings on the north side of the site, capacity for 1,200 students, a covered football stadium, a 600-seat auditorium and two clear entrances are among the improvements.

"We're hoping this will be our 50-year high school," Hamilton said.

The bond wouldn't alter the district's current property tax levy -- $3.42 per $1,000 of assessed value -- because it would take effect when a bond passed several years ago to erect Ash Creek Intermediate School expires in 2010, Hunter has said.

A survey of 360 residents in April by The Nelson Group, a Salem polling firm, showed 83 percent support from respondents for either of two bond options

:

a $40 million alternative with no tax increase and a $55 million bond that would increase taxes by 83 cents per $1,000 and allow for elementary school classroom expansions.

Asked to chose between the different bonds, 45 percent of participants said they preferred the $55 million bond compared to 38 percent for the $40 million bond.

The $47.3 million bond approved by the Central board won't pay for elementary school enhancements.

"There was a feeling among us that we have pushed back the high school's needs for a couple of years and we needed to just focus on those," said Hamilton, noting upgrades to Independence Elementary School and Talmadge Middle School covered through a 2006 bond.

"With gas prices and the shaky economy, we thought this would be best in order for the project to get a 'yes' from people. To get this done, we needed to keep this as a zero-percent tax increase."

One element of the board's decision was to use any unspent bond funds to pay for energy efficiency measures at the elementary schools to reduce operating costs, Hamilton said.

Mike Ainsworth of Monmouth is a member of a recently-formed advocacy committee that will start an information campaign and hold meetings on the bond this summer.

"I believe everyone needs to have a quality education and a facility that isn't run down," he said. "My kids graduated from Central, my wife and I graduated from Central ... you can pay now, or a lot more later."

For more information: www.central.k12.or.us.

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