509-J leaders outline school bond

509-J leaders outline school bond

Story from Madras Pioneer
Story from Madras Pioneer

Jefferson County School District 509-J Superintendent Jay Mathisen and school board members are getting the word out to community groups about the $24 million school bond that will be on the Nov. 2 local special election ballot.

"The purpose of all these presentations is to present information about the bond to our community and to answer any questions that come up about it," said 509-J Communications Coordinator Joey Prechtl. "It's important to point out these are not meetings where we advocate for the bond or tell people how to vote, these are only informational."

If passed, the $24 million bond, titled Bond to Address Health and Safety; Repair, Update Facilities, would maintain the current tax rate. The district applied for a matching grant opportunity through the Oregon State Capital Improvement Matching Program and was awarded a $4 million matching grant, but only if the proposed measure passes. The district would then have $28 million for the proposed bond projects.

District leaders invite the community to a Coffee Cuppers event they are hosting with the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce at 8 a.m. Friday, Oct. 8. Due to COVID-19 protocols, the event will be held outside on the Madras High School soccer fields, the site of one of the district's proposed bond projects. Mathisen will share bond information during the public gathering.

Mathisen, board members and Prechtl have presented bond information to Rotary, Kiwanis, Jefferson County Commissioners, Warm Springs Education Committee, Madras City Council, Metolius City Council and Jefferson County Democrats. They plan to visit Papalaxsimisha Community Network in Warm Springs, the Warm Springs Tribal Council, and the Jefferson County Republicans. Prechtl is researching other groups to visit.

He said they cover a wide range of information in the presentation, starting with a history lesson on the latest bond that was passed in 2012. They cover the process that led the district to this bond package, including the long-range facilities plan and bond development committee. They highlight the bond projects, which can be described in three ways: health, safety and security projects. This includes repairing and updating aging facilities and expanding vocational programs and early learning.

Should the bond pass, funds will be used to repair school building roofs, heating and cooling systems, and provide new key and access control, among other maintenance projects. Madras High School would get a new soccer concession and restroom facility and field lights.

"We are also presenting this proposed bond measure is not estimated to raise taxes due to old bond retiring, and that the State of Oregon will match the bond with a $4 million grant for projects should it pass. This is due to the OSCIM program from the state," Prechtl said.

In addition to holding the community meetings, Mathisen has also been meeting with each school and giving the presentation to district faculty and staff.

The district will mail a newsletter to registered voters this week and will mail two other pieces throughout October.

The bond website, 509jschoolbond.org, provides more details about the bond and a complete listing of proposed projects.

Oct. 12 is the deadline to register to vote in time for the Nov. 2 special election. Ballots will be mailed Oct. 13.

"The next steps are to continue to present information and answer and all questions that may come up from voters," Prechtl said. "I know a big question I've been hearing is about how it will impact the tax rate, and this bond is not estimated to raise taxes."

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