Voters in the St. Helens School District will be asked to support a $4 million bond measure this spring, but if it passes, the school district could receive much more than that.
If the $4 million bond measure on the May ballot passes, St. Helens would qualify for a matching grant from the state of Oregon.
It’s an opportunity from the state that the school district doesn’t want to pass up.
Superintendent Scot Stockwell explained, “Our district has been awarded a state matching grant from the Oregon Department of Education in the amount of $4 million, but in order to secure the money for the project, voters have to pass at least a $4 million bond.”
The bond, if approved, would allow the district to add back some items that were “value engineered” — or removed, due to the cost of inflation and supply chain issues.
The district expects that the bond will not increase the amount that taxpayers currently pay.
Stockwell listed some potential “add-backs” the district would consider, should the bond pass and the district receive the matching money.
Bond money would fund the replacement or updating of HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems in St. Helens High School.
Other improvements would include paving parking lots, updating career-technical education programs, a covered area outside the commons, updating the auditorium, updating locker rooms, and replacing the grass on the baseball and softball fields with modern artificial turf.
High school renovations
Construction at St. Helens High School has encountered a number of bumps along the way.
“During the pandemic, our project faced a number of national and international challenges that created delays, including COVID work stoppages, inflation costs, labor shortages and supply chain issues that not only affected our timeline, but also our budget,” Stockwell said.
Explaining these issues, he said, “Some of the materials we initially wanted to purchase just aren’t feasible anymore. We also faced supply chain delays. We order materials early whenever possible, but there are still significant delays.”
Voters in May 2020 narrowly approved a $55 million bond measure paying for the renovation and partial reconstruction of the high school.
Stockwell said that since the school district has been paying off its bond debt and the population of the district has grown, district officials don’t anticipate that taxpayers will see an increase on their property tax bills if they pass the bond measure this May.
“Given the opportunity to place a bond on the ballot where we double our money with a one-to-one match, without increasing the amount taxpayers currently pay, (it) seemed like the most responsible thing to do,” the superintendent said.
Work on St. Helens High School will continue regardless of whether this bond passes, although it would bolster the construction budget if it does pass.
“When all is said and done, we will have a great new facility our community will be proud of for many years, regardless of whether the bond passes or not,” Stockwell said. “As a school district, we would be remiss if we didn’t provide our community with an opportunity to choose to add back $8 million of construction that evaporated with inflation at essentially no additional cost.”