The Hermiston Board of Education approved a citizen facilities committee recommendation to put an $82.7 million bond measure before voters this November.
The decision was made at Monday night’s school board meeting.
The bond would fund capital construction initiatives to address student capacity demands at the elementary and high school levels.
The board sought community input through 20-member facilities planning committee to review current school capacity, projected enrollment growth, and potential solutions to meet the district’s needs. Members of the committee included individuals from the public and private sectors representing business, education, agriculture, health care, construction, building trades, and more.
The proposed November bond is a little more than $21 million less than the $104 million bond voters rejected in May of 2017.
Monday’s bond measure recommendation was developed to fund strategic projects that address overcrowding at the elementary and high school levels while keeping the recently announced school bond property tax reduction.
“Our community has asked that we keep class sizes small and schools from becoming overcrowded, and this bond would allow us to do both while making Hermiston a more attractive place to work and live,” said Tricia Mooney, Hermiston School District superintendent. “Taxpayers who support the Hermiston School District deserve to see their money spent wisely while addressing the needs of our students.”
The following are projects included in the proposed bond:
- Replace Rocky Heights Elementary School with a larger capacity building on the current property
- Construction of a new elementary school on Theater Lane property
- Construction of a large multi-use annex to increase capacity at Hermiston High School
- Elementary school improvements that address capacity and congestion
- Purchase of property for projected student capacity demand and needs
The district will also make adjustments to Highland Hills Elementary School boundaries to reduce the student population to the appropriate size for the building.
The proposal also includes the following fiscal accountability parameters:
- Prohibits bond proceeds to be spent on deferred maintenance
- Creation of a citizen oversight committee to ensure proceeds are used as intended
“We have an obligation to provide high-level education to each generation of Hermiston students, and to do that we must have adequate space and relevant programs,” said Karen Sherman, former educator and Hermiston School Board of Directors chair. “With support from our residents, we’ll be able to keep up with the growing demand for classroom space and maintain quality instruction at each of our campuses.”
The district aggressively budgeted to pay off its pre-2008 bond debt, which was completed in full last month. The district’s paying off the pre-2008 bond debt, in addition to the continued development of new commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Hermiston, will allow taxpayers to keep their anticipated property tax reduction of $0.40 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Hermiston’s student population has increased at a faster rate than comparably sized districts since its last capital construction project, and new buildings will meet current needs while preparing for continued growth.
The 2019 senior class grew to 378 students from 354 in 2018, and the 2019 kindergarten class grew to 466 from 443 in 2018, continuing a persistent trend of increased enrollment. As the city of Hermiston continues to grow, the student population is also projected to increase for the foreseeable future.
“This proposal will help us meet current student enrollment needs without overreaching. It also respects taxpayers by including oversight that the dollars are spent properly,” said Brent Pitney, Hermiston School District Board member.