REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Schools officials are finalizing details for a $70 million property tax levy expected to go to voters next year. But its success could be jeopardized by a proposed public safety fee. Superintendent Mike McIntosh says the school bond would add 50-cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value and is needed to fund safety and security improvements, maintenance, and efficiency upgrades at several schools, as well as reconstruction of Lynch Elementary. "We did the same exact thing with Terrebonne School a few years ago. We looked at that structure and said, ‘how do we make this modern; how do we make this efficient and appropriate?’ And so, we literally tore down Terrebonne and built a new school around the gym. Same kind of thinking with Lynch. It’s probably going to be more cost effective to tear it down and start over, so that’s about a $20 million portion of the $70 million we’re asking for."
McIntosh is concerned about how receptive voters will be to a new property tax in 2018, if the City Council approves a $6 monthly fee on utility bills to fund the hiring of more police officers. But, he he doesn't believe the school district has a choice. "Oregon does not have a mechanism that allows me to do it any differently. There’s no way for a school district to get $70 million to do these urgent and necessary things. So, our way to do that is to go to our voters and ask them to increase their own taxes and, in essence, support their schools." He adds, "What I know is there are people on a fixed income; whether you’re retired, elderly or just out of work, that it’s an incredible inconvenience – not just inconvenience, but imposition. I want to be very, very sensitive to that. And so, having that $6 every month tacked on to your city power bill is going to be a significant issue for those people, as well." McIntosh tells KBND News, "I don’t want to ever say ‘it’s just a small amount.’ I get it; It’s a big amount. But, it’s also important."
The Redmond City Council is expected to decide in the spring whether to approve the public safety fee. Another public meeting to discuss the fee will be held December 5 at 5:30 p.m., at City Hall. McIntosh says the school district hasn’t decided whether to send the bond measure to the ballot in May or November. He plans to meet with a group next week to discuss the formation of a Political Action Committee.
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Photo: Lynch Elementary was forced to close when last winter's immense snowfall caused the roof to sag. It reopened after snow was removed.