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Culver Reacts to School Bond Defeat

By Kim-Barney
Published On: Nov 08 2011 11:27:35 AM CST
Updated On: Nov 09 2011 09:14:11 AM CST
CULVER, Ore. -

Culver-area residents made their voices heard, as two-thirds of voters shot down a $14.5 million school bond measure Tuesday night. School officials said Wednesday they knew passing the bond measure would be a challenge, but they didn't expect such an overwhelming defeat.

Culver School District voters soundly thumped the bond measure to remodel and upgrade the district?s schools by a 2-to-1 ratio Tuesday night, leaving Superintendent Stefanie Garber in ?complete disbelief.?

"Our facilities are failing," Garber said Wednesday. "So we can't do nothing. But yeah, two-thirds is a large amount."

Many of the teachers are working in buildings that have not been upgraded since the 1960s. And many of them said they hoped the measure would succeed.

"I had my hopes up that it would pass," first-grade teacher Cindy Dix said. "We were pretty discouraged when we saw that not only did it not pass, but the extent the no's won out over the yesses."

The money would have paid for several things. One of them was a 14-acre property that the district bought in 2008, when it was growing 12 percent a year.

"I voted no," Culver resident, Robert Page said Wednesday. "The reason why is that I believe purchasing a piece of land when the schools were in need of repair is a sign to me that they don't know how to quite spend their money."

The measure would have also updated the athletic facility and remodeled the elementary and high schools, fixing some major problems like their heating system. Right now, two thirds of the school is heated with a 1960s boiler. The school was hoping to get a more energy-efficient one in place.

Al ofl the proposed improvements would not have come cheap. The hike in property taxes would have cost the average Culver home owner about $21 a month.

"Until they can prove they know how to spend money, I'll keep voting no on such measures," Page said.

The school district plans to reach out to voters and show them why they need help.

"I just love this place," Garber said. "I hope for the best for it. So we need improvements."

Even though they were shot down this election, Garber said she would especially like to hear from people who voted no, as they decide what to do next.

Tuesday night's final tally: 742 no votes, or 67 percent, to 361 yes votes, or 33 percent.

A task force had tried to lobby for the measure in a community-driven process to tackle the problem of facilities that have exceeded their useful life. But in the end, a pocketbook issue in a tough economy sank like a heavy stone.

Among the proposed improvements were to expand and remodel the high school, from safety improvements to technology upgrades, as well as the heating-cooling system; demolishing and replacing classrooms in two old elementary school wings; gym modernization including more locker room space; a new building for concessions and public restrooms at the athletic field, and more.

But while the specifics of the request in the 640-student Culver district echoed successful money measures in far larger districts like Bend-La Pine, that district has been able to go to voters periodically as old bonds expire, asking for new funds for new or upgraded schools while keeping property tax rates about the same.

No such luck in Culver, where the last money measure, to build a new elementary school, was rejected six years ago. This time, the proposed tax rate of $3.46 per $1,000 assessed value would have cost the average Culver homeowner an additional $21.34 a month.

?I think this committed group of individuals has left no resource untapped? in pitching the bond measure, said Garber, who spent eight years as Culver Elementary principal before she became superintendent of the 640-student district three years ago.

Garber said one issue is geographic: A breakdown by precinct showed that while the margin of defeat was much smaller, 103-146, in Culver, closer to the schools, the measure went down by ?a landslide? in Crooked River Ranch and the outlying Haystack area.

Then there?s demographics: On the last, defeated money measure, 68 percent of the voters were 65 and older, meaning more fixed incomes and no kids in the schools.

?I don?t know what to say -- it?s just devastating,? the superintendent said. ?I do take it on as a greater challenge. Obviously we have more homework to do, educating the public about the schools and the condition they are in.?

Now, she only half-joked, it could be time for a ?space heater drive. Even as we speak, there are classrooms in which they don?t make the parts any more for the heater.?

?I just take it as it?s not the right time,? Garber added. ?Everything happens for a reason -- I?m very faith-based. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be.?

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