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News | Education | local | Elections 2016

Oregon School Districts Miss Out On $9.45M In State Money


The Corbett School District had hoped voters would approve a construction bond on the May 2016 ballot. But even the possibility of a $4 million match from the state didn't convince voters, and the measure failed.

The Corbett School District had hoped voters would approve a construction bond on the May 2016 ballot. But even the possibility of a $4 million match from the state didn’t convince voters, and the measure failed.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

More than half the school bonds on Oregon’s ballot passed Tuesday night. But because a number of bond measures failed, the results create a ripple effect when it comes to the state matching funds. 

The May primary was the first election where Oregon school districts could get up to $8 million from the state to help with major construction projects, but districts had to get voter support for their own bonds to get the money.

State legislators created a $123 million matching fund in 2015, but it took until the May 2016 election cycle for rules and procedures to be in place.

Even with the promise of multimillion dollar grants, only seven of the 16 school districts eligible for matching money successfully passed bonds. Successful districts were mostly small and east of the Cascades, such as Adrian and Nyssa in Malheur County, and Athena-Weston, Echo and Milton-Freewater in Umatilla County. Voter approval is even more meaningful in Milton-Freewater, where a private foundation was offering the district $15 million if the measure passed.

The Yamhill-Carlton School District and Lane County’s Mapleton district also won approval of their construction bonds. Most of the districts will get $4 million in a state match.  

The districts that failed to pass bonds — and therefore lost out on matching funds — are all over Oregon. In the Portland metro area, Centennial and Corbett in Multnomah County fell short. Farther south, Falls City, Central Linn, Siuslaw and South Umpqua all failed to pass bonds and missed out on millions in state dollars.

Their loss is the gain of school districts that had been placed on a waiting list to be eligible for matching funds in the event other districts failed to pass bonds. Winners from the wait list include Gaston, Hood River County, McMinnville and South Lane districts.

Some districts could have come off the wait list and earned matching funds, but they didn’t put bonds on the ballot. The combination of failed bond measures — or districts choosing not to put measures on the ballot — meant dollars reached all the way to the Sisters School District at the bottom of the waiting list.

Officials at the Oregon Department of Education say there was actually $9.45 million left unclaimed in the May election out of a possible $61.5 million. That money will now be available to districts putting bond measures on the November 2016 ballot.

State officials had planned for November to be a much smaller pool of funds, but with the leftovers from May, it’ll now be about $40 million.

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