School bonds mostly pass across Oregon

By Elizabeth Miller (OPB)
Nov. 9, 2022 9:32 p.m.

Voters approved a $450 million Portland Community College bond.

The Bend-La Pine School District is expected to grow by 3,000 students in the next 10 years.

The Bend-La Pine School District appeared to successfully pass a bond in Tuesday's election.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

Voters approved bonds and levies for schools in seven of 10 races across the state.


That includes a $250 million bond for Bend-La Pine schools and a $450 million bond for Portland Community College.

In a statement shared Tuesday night, PCC president Adrien Bennings thanked voters for their support and acknowledged the bond goals of modernizing the college’s Rock Creek and Sylvania campuses and expanding career technical education in Washington County.

“Portland continues to grow and evolve, and PCC is adapting to meet Portland’s needs,” Bennings said. “As Oregon’s largest post-secondary institution, our bond program is committed to being a responsible steward of community resources, and returning to voters and taxpayers a value that far exceeds the investment they have made in us this November.”

Bend-La Pine superintendent Steven Cook said Wednesday he will work to make the district’s schools a source of pride for residents.

“We are grateful to our community for showing their commitment to students and public education by supporting this measure, which will upgrade safety and security, modernize classrooms and provide for critical maintenance and preservation projects across our district,” Cook said in a statement emailed to OPB.

Other bonds approved by voters will support the Forest Grove School District in Washington County and David Douglas schools in Multnomah County.

The $140 million bond in David Douglas will go toward a new “hands-on learning” building at David Douglas High School, in addition to securing entrances at 11 schools across the district.

In eastern Oregon, Umatilla County voters appear to support a $45 million bond for Umatilla schools to undergo school renovations, including a new career technical education building at Umatilla High School, renovations at an elementary and middle school, and a new building to serve students in grades four through six.


In putting the bond on the ballot, the Umatilla School District estimated a student increase of 500 students over the next decade, adding to the current student population of 1300. The growth, in part due to Amazon facilities and home construction, raised concerns that Amazon wouldn’t have to support the bond. The city has an agreement that requires the company to make payments toward the bond.

Umatilla Superintendent Heidi Sipe said information sessions helped alleviate “questions and stress” voters had. While noting that all the votes haven’t yet been counted, Sipe thanked voters for their support in funding the construction of a new school.

“We have tried to get this school built on South Hill since 2006, and I’m very appreciative of this opportunity,” Sipe said.

Of the 10 school measures on Oregon ballots, three have appeared to fail, including bonds for the Sheridan School District and the Rogue River School District in Jackson County.

Rogue River superintendent Patrick Lee said the proposed renovations included in the $4 million bond package came from the results of surveys from the community. If the bond had passed, the district would have received a $4 million matching grant from the state. Lee was surprised the bond failed, with 57% of Jackson County voters rejecting it.

“We thought that would be a very appealing package to our voters,” Lee said. “I don’t know if the climate changed, the economy changed that much, or if there’s just some factors we weren’t aware of.”

A levy to fund teachers in the Parkrose School District in eastern Multnomah County also appears to be failing. It would have paid for 22 teachers and instructional assistants.

Anticipating a $3.2 million budget shortfall in the next school year, the school district asked voters to support the levy to retain school staff. According to unofficial results, around 55% of voters rejected the measure.

Concerns about increased taxes may be behind at least two of the three failed measures. In Rogue River, the bond would mean an increase of 8 cents per $1000 in assessed property value.

In the Parkrose explanatory statement filed in advance of the election, district officials wrote that the measure “may cause property taxes to increase more than three percent.”

All of the district bonds, including the failed Sheridan and Rogue River measures, were set to receive grants of at least $4 million through the state’s School Capital Improvement Matching Program. For the bonds that failed, those grant funds will instead go to other school districts.

Lee said he’s not sure what’s next, but he plans to meet with the board and figure out what went wrong.

“Do we repackage it? Do we try it again? There’s a lot of needs within this district, and there’s a unique opportunity to get that matching grant if we can do it again,” he said.