Frequently Asked Questions
Last Updated 10/14/2014
Q. How will a bond help rural schools in the District?
A. While the bond includes $400,000 for security and technology upgrades at all District elementary schools, the majority of bond funds will be used to address the District’s most pressing facility need: the relocation of Eugene Field School students and staff members. Once the Eugene Field School situation is addressed, the District’s current reserve funds will be available for maintenance projects at our rural schools. If the bond does not pass, the District will use reserve funds for Eugene Field School relocation projects and there will be limited funding available for other general maintenance projects.
Q. What specific security and technology upgrades would the bond fund at all District elementary schools?
A. The $400,000 designated in the bond for upgrades at all District elementary schools would cover the costs to upgrade door locks, provide uniformity in network infrastructures and install security cameras at each elementary school.
Q. Is the District working to find other sources of funding to address facilities needs?
A. Yes. The District team has applied for $1.5 million in grant funding to make seismic upgrades at Butte Creek and Scotts Mills schools which were identified in a recent engineering study as the highest seismic priorities in the District (after Eugene Field and the multi-story Schlador building). If the District is selected to receive this grant, it will submit another grant application next year to make seismic upgrades at Mark Twain School, which is next on the study’s priority list. For more information on the engineering study, visit the SFSD Seismic Executive Summary.
In addition to grant opportunities, District leadership has been working to sell surplus property to help fund other capital projects. Most recently, the 9.5-acre Steelhammer Road property in Silverton sold for $433,000. With 20% of the proceeds designated to serve special education students as required by the deed, the remaining revenue from the sale will be placed in the District capital projects fund.
Q. Is there a chance that the bond rate could be different than the estimated $3.00 dollars or less per $1,000 of assessed property value?
A. While the $3.00 projected levy rate is an estimate based on certain assumptions, it is not locked in. The actual levy rates, which will be set every year based on new property values, could be higher or lower than the projection. That said, the District has proposed a debt structure designed to remain at or below $3.00 and minimize the annual burden on taxpayers as property values fluctuate. Other debt structure options were discussed by the board but this approach allows the district to maintain the $3.00 or less estimate. A low debt service rate is a priority for the board and a direct response to public input.
Here are other points to consider:
- This estimated rate includes the total costs for BOTH the remainder of the voter approved Silverton High School bond AND the proposed bond.
- District bond rate estimates in the past have been consistently accurate and payments have remained at or below the estimated rates over the lives of the bonds.
- Both principal and interest payments are scheduled to occur each year of the bond beginning in year 2.
Q. Why is SFSD putting another bond on the ballot when the last measure didn’t pass?
A. Since the last election, District leadership has worked closely with community members to understand local expectations and priorities. Taking action on the aging Eugene Field School building was identified by a majority of District residents as a top priority. The new proposed bond will allow the District to move Eugene Field School students to another school building and discontinue use of the current facility.
Q. How much will the bond cost?
A. The proposed bond is for $24.9 million with the majority of funds designated for changes to accommodate the relocation of Eugene Field students. A portion of funds will also support general safety and maintenance needs of all other elementary schools. For more information, please see the proposed Project Budget.
Q. How much will Silverton property owners pay if the bond passes?
A. In 2015, property owners in Silverton are expected to pay $2.36 per $1,000 of assessed property value on existing bond issues that funded the completion of Silverton High School. If the new bond measure passes in November, the combined rate for existing and new bonds is estimated to be $3.00 or less per $1,000 of assessed property value over the life of the bonds. See this detailed Bond Rate Graph for more information.
Q. What would the bond fund?
The November 4 bond measure is focused on facility improvements and upgrades that would enable Eugene Field School students to relocate to Robert Frost School. Additionally, a small percentage of the bond would fund other needed elementary school improvements. Specifically, the bond would fund:
- Construction of additional classrooms and a cafeteria at Robert Frost School to accommodate use by Eugene Field School students (K-3)
- Construction of a covered play area at Mark Twain School to accommodate students grades 4 and 5
- Removal of the original multi-story Schlador Street school building that has been decommissioned for school use by the School Board
- Construction of additional classrooms and reconstruction of the newer single-story portion of the Schlador Street Campus to serve students grades 6 through 8 while continuing to house Community Roots Charter School students
- Safety, security and technology upgrades for all District elementary schools
Q. Why is Eugene Field School still open if it’s not safe?
A. The teachers and staff at Eugene Field are doing an extraordinary job of making Eugene Field School a safe and positive place for learning. Their careful planning and preparedness is serving students and families well, but the current building will not support the instructional and safety needs of students, teachers and staff into the future.
Q. Will the Eugene Field School building be removed if the bond passes?
A. There are no plans to remove the Eugene Field School building at this time. The goal of the proposed bond measure is to discontinue use of the building for student instruction and move Eugene Field School students to a more suitable learning environment at Robert Frost.
Q. Will the original Schlador Street School building be removed if the bond passes?
A. Yes, the school board has decommissioned the original multi-story portion of the Schlador Street building for school use and determined that renovation from its current state would be prohibitively expensive and would not be the best use of taxpayer dollars. For detailed information about safety and seismic concerns and costs, see the Schlador Street School Summary.
Q. Why is the District considering removal of the original Schlador Street building?
A. District leaders have made a commitment to make school safety and quality instruction the top priorities for the students, teachers and staff of the Silver Falls School District. In 2006, voters passed a bond to fund construction of the new high school because the original multi-story portion of the Schlador Street building was no longer a safe option to serve students and the cost of renovation was prohibitive. The new proposed bond would fund removal of the unsafe portion of the building along with reconstruction of the single story classrooms along James St. and Schlador Street which will be modernized along with the gym and newer locker rooms. For information about the proposed removal and designs for reconstruction on the Schlador Street campus, see the Schlador Street Footprint and Schlador Street Preliminary Conceptual Design.
Q. Are there plans to preserve or repurpose any of the materials from the original Schlador Street building for historical purposes?
A. Options to preserve or reuse some of the historic materials from the building are currently being explored by District leadership. If these options prove to be in the best interest of students, community members and taxpayers, the District team will gladly incorporate them into construction planning.
Q. Is the District considering manufactured/volumetric as a construction option?
A. Yes. Manufactured/volumetric buildings are increasingly used in school construction projects and are being explored as part of the solution to provide Silver Falls School District students with more suitable learning environments. The final decision on construction would be driven by what makes the most sense in terms of student needs and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
Q. What happens if the school bond fails in November?
A. The Eugene Field School building will not be a viable option for instruction in the coming years. Last spring, a community task force conducted an extensive review of the Eugene Field School building and made a formal recommendation to the school board to discontinue use of the building. The board has approved that recommendation without a specific timeline. For details, see the Eugene Field School Task Force Recommendations. If the bond does not pass, the District will be in the position of evaluating limited options for discontinued use of Eugene Field School. One solution would be to draw from reserve funds. District-wide facilities costs will be factored into the general district budgets over the coming years. District leadership will weigh and prioritize facility needs and their potential to impact other costs such as staffing levels and operational costs.
Q. Why should taxpayers be responsible for school facilities? Doesn’t the District receive funding from the state?
A. In Oregon, there are two major funding sources for education. The state provides money to support general school operations including teacher and staff salaries and benefits as well as textbooks and supplies needed for everyday operations. The state support is typically not enough to pay for operating expenses and large capital improvement projects. Money to build and upgrade school facilities consequently comes from community members who vote to adopt school bonds. The District issues debt to fund construction and the debt is repaid over time with property tax dollars.
Q. Why did SFSD spend money on a new high school when EFS needs so much work?
A. School maintenance and construction projects are prioritized based on student safety and instructional needs. At the time of the last school bond, a new high school facility was without question, the District’s most pressing facilities need.
Q. Why did SFSD spend so much on the new high school?
A. Construction costs for the new Silver Falls High School building were not higher than other comparable high school facilities designed to support future instructional and technology needs and support long-term, sustainable school use. The new high school construction project was also completed under budget and $800,000 was returned to community members in the form of property tax reduction in 2013-14. Silverton High School has also brought additional revenue to the District through nearly $2 million in grants and additional funds generated through community facilities use.
Q. How will Robert Frost function as an elementary school?
A. Robert Frost School has effectively served students grades 4, 5 & 6 since 1970. The addition of classrooms and a cafeteria, in combination with the skilled team of teachers and staff from Eugene Field, will create an appropriate learning environment for the District’s youngest students.
Q. Wouldn’t it be cheaper and less complicated to just build a new school for Eugene Field students?
A. Constructing a new elementary school for 600 students on an undeveloped site would be more expensive and could take much longer to complete than the proposed bond projects. The District, School Board and community members have made relocation of Eugene Field students a top priority with a goal to have all related construction projects complete by August of 2016. Community members have also asked the District to utilize the Schlador St. campus rather than have two empty buildings, which would not be the most efficient use of District resources.
Q. How will traffic around the Schlador Street campus be addressed if the bond is approved?
A. The proposed bond is designed to fund a complete traffic study as well as city and county traffic impact fees that will likely be required to serve additional students on the Schlador Street Campus. If the bond passes in November, the results of the traffic study and related requirements will be available on the District website.
Q. Has the option of remodeling Eugene Field School at a reasonable cost been professionally evaluated and considered?
A. Yes. The District has hired an experienced and reputable engineering firm to evaluate and provide recommendations for seismic retrofitting and modernization of EFS. Their recommendations were developed following the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Seismic Evaluation guidelines. To ensure the future safety and academic success of EFS students, the combined construction costs of these recommendations, along with the cost and feasibility of necessary improvements to safely and efficiently sustain the building into the future were prohibitive. While an individual community member has presented an independent set of recommendations for the remediation of EFS, the District’s qualified specialists have found them to be inaccurate, incomplete and not inclusive of funding for necessary interior and exterior remodeling and modernization (including electrical, sewer, roofing, playground and fire safety improvements). For detailed information, see Response to Remediation Budget.
Q. Do the estimated property tax rates include interest?
A. Yes, the estimated tax rate of $3.00 or less per $1,000 of assessed property value over the 17- year life of the bond includes variables like interest as well as existing debt from previous bonds.
Q. Are there traffic, safety and exterior space issues at all SFSD schools?
A. No. Most schools in the District are located on larger properties with more exterior space, less exposure to traffic and fewer students. While the minimum recommended lot size of an elementary school is 5 acres, EFS sits on 3.5 acres and is surrounded by city streets and state highways.