If the voters approve the proposed $235 million 50-year bond appropriation to build new schools, the individual taxpayer is taken out of the decision making process as to what actually gets built, when, where, and at what cost.
I am a no vote for that approach.
The school board, under advice of an advisory body, will make the decisions for us.
I worked in government spending seven years in the finance division whose functions included creating and monitoring the annual budget for the agency.
The group that advised the board was called the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). I know how that group was populated.
In April I attended a town hall meeting where the district’s architect showed a site plan for the 29-acre Wahtonka property. The existing Chenowith Elementary was gone and replaced by a tennis court.
As I recall (hard copies of the site plan were not provided to attendees), the entire property consisted of the high school building, parking, and athletic fields.
In an article in The Dalles Chronicle on Sept. 12 titled “Park Proposal Presented,” it was reported: “Also on the radar is creating a sports complex with four baseball fields and two soccer fields.”
Playing sports in high school is important, but I am not sure what I saw on the proposed site plan represents the best use of some of that real estate.
The electrical system at Chenowith Elementary will not handle both air conditioning and running computers.
That is to be expected for a building placed in service in 1962, but the cost per square foot to upgrade the electrical system and add desired security provisions is far less than $500.
It has also been said that the cafeteria is undersized, requiring food to be served in six shifts, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. I find that hard to believe, and would welcome the opportunity to sit through one or two of the lunch periods to understand the issues.
Often solutions to problems can be pretty simple when looked at by another set of eyes.
During my junior and senior years, I attended school in new classrooms. I don’t feel the new building and athletic facilities had a great impact on my educational experience.
What did was the instructors I had. Instructors who made learning interesting and challenging.
Incurring the cost to demolish Chenowith Elementary, replace it with tennis courts, then pay $500 per square foot to build the capacity to house the displaced students somewhere else does not make good sense to me.
I am also a no vote based on this issue: The district is going to have to articulate to the voters how that effort brings good value to them. That effort may generate some billable hours for the district’s PR firm.
The public has been given some inaccurate and misleading information that I am not sure has been corrected yet. We have been told that two-thirds of the district’s taxpayers are already paying $1.65 per thousand of assessed valuation for The Dalles Middle School bonds, so this new bond would be an increase of $1.34 per thousand.
I am not paying $1.65 but rather $1.50887 meaning that my increase should this measure pass would be $1.481.
The sample property tax statement shown on the webpage www.northwascobond.org, also shows a rate of $1.50887.
The Residential Property Tax Estimator on the webpage is misleading. What it should do is allow the user to input their tax code and taxable/assessed value and then generate the total dollars from their tax bill that will be paid to service this debt issue.
Additional valuable information to the taxpayer is the total tax dollars that would be paid for, not only the bond, but also for annual operating activities.
The taxpayer would also benefit from knowing what percent of the total dollars paid in November goes for education.
The school board has a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to act in their best interest and this means providing adequate and accurate information for them to use when making decisions about how their tax money should be spent. I think the best way to proceed is to have the district define a project.
For example: a new high school. They should detail the cost elements of the project including property acquisition, demolition (if applicable), design and construction.
Tell the taxpayers what they are proposing to build being specific as to square footage of class rooms, athletic facilities, computer labs and ask them to fund the project.
What the district needs to do is balance the need for new facilities with the ability of our taxpayers to stay in their current housing arrangements.
— Born and raised in The Dalles, Tom Tramontina spent 20 years in the private sector working the the construction industry and 18 years in government working for the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (Tri-Met) in Portland. He worked in both the Capital Projects and Finance Divisions.