Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions2017-06-25T18:51:01+00:00
Is any work planned at charter schools in this bond?2018-04-30T15:57:20+00:00

Work is planned at charter school locations that are owned by the school district. Optimum Learning Environments Charter is housed inside Forest Ridge Elementary, and would benefit from the upgrades shown for that facility. Valley Inquiry Charter is housed in the Hazelgreen School facility, and will see work which includes replacing the old portable with a newer one, mechanical improvements, and addressing ceilings, walls, doors, windows, etc. as needed. The remaining two charters that are sponsored by Salem-Keizer are housed in leased facilities. Any needed capital construction at these locations would be discussed with the property owner.

What is the plan for ensuring the ongoing cleanliness and maintenance of the buildings that our community is trusting the district to build and maintain with the money from the bond? Will staff be added?2018-04-30T15:48:36+00:00

Each school that has identified major capital construction needs like new or expanded cafeterias, will have a design team established to address all of the issues affecting that school. The custodial department will be the primary communicators with custodial staff to gather input and address any questions or concerns regarding staffing. There is not a set ratio for determining facilities staffing, such as so many custodians per square foot of space. This is because each school has unique characteristics. For example, some of our older schools, like Highland and Englewood, have three stories and an old-fashioned design, and they take more custodial support per square foot than a newer school like Battle Creek. When additional space is added, the district assesses each building to determine the best way to provide the facilities support needed. Adding significant amounts of additional square footage would require additional facilities staff, and the decision on how best to support the schools would be determined in the annual budget development process.

Why don’t schools run double-shifts of students instead of expanding?2018-04-27T16:23:12+00:00

Running early and late shifts at schools would mean that most students’ schedules would be very different from their parents’ schedules. Aligning school schedules as closely as possible with the traditional work day allows families to have time more together, which provides better support for students. There are other challenges with this type of schedule as well, such as additional transportation costs, and coordinating extra-curricular activities like music and athletics.

Why is the district already working on designs for schools before the bond is voted on?2018-04-24T15:57:43+00:00

This is being done to manage cost inflation. Construction costs increase significantly every year. It’s estimated that delaying the start of bond work one year would add about $35 million to the costs. Design teams at the five schools that would be scheduled first for construction are working on plans so that if the bond passes in May, construction can start in 2019.

What’s happening with the property north of LPC?2018-04-23T18:56:12+00:00

There are no plans for the property north of LPC at this time.

What seismic strengthening has already been done at North Salem High School?2018-04-24T15:58:36+00:00

Seismic strengthening projects involving the roof diaphragm and roof-to-wall ties were done in the auxiliary gymnasium area, boiler room and library. Additionally the brick chimney was shortened to improve its seismic abilities.

How did the district decide to add space at some schools but not others?2018-04-30T15:49:19+00:00

Schools were identified for additional space if they are currently overcrowded, or if population projections predict a need for additional capacity in the school in the next 20 years. The facilities task force reviewed the information for each school and provided recommendations to the school board. The board asked staff to reduce the total projected cost of the bond in alignment with community expectations. All decisions were made using the student population forecasts from Portland State University Population Research Center and establish long-range facilities planning standards and parameters.

Has the district considered boundary changes instead of expanding schools?2018-04-22T22:50:34+00:00

Yes. The state statute that governs how school districts must plan for facilities needs (ORS 195.110) says districts must examine alternatives to new school construction and major renovation. The district assesses school capacities every year based on current and future enrollment projections. School boundary changes are a normal part of making routine adjustments to balance student enrollment with available school capacity approximately every five to seven years. There are many areas throughout the district that will require routine boundary adjustments and more will be necessary with the proposed bond.

This new school bond will raise my assessment by $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed value. Why such a large increase in our school bond taxes?2018-04-22T22:51:22+00:00

The estimated levy rate increase is derived from the total cost of work included in the final bond package. That is, in order to raise $619.7 million through a 20-year general obligation bond, the current levy rate would need to increase by an estimated $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed value. Community polling indicated support for a property tax increase between $1.51 and $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. For this reason, we understand your question to be, “How did the School Board arrive at the final bond package total?” The Bond History page provides a summary of how the bond package was developed. In short, the School Board directed district staff to create a package that addresses as many facility needs as possible, to incorporate the feedback heard in a community phone survey and keep the package total under $620 million.

How has the district taken advantage of opportunities under SB 1149 and the seismic grant program?2018-04-22T22:51:38+00:00

In July 2018 when the final funds are received, the total reimbursements to the district under SB 1149 for the 2008 bond program will be $7,385,604. The district received $1.5 million for Englewood Elementary School in the SRGP seismic grant program. The district currently has a grant for $1.4 million for Four Corners Elementary School (not related to bond work), and intends to apply for these grants for bond projects when available.

What about asbestos abatement? How much is included in the bond?2018-04-23T18:45:06+00:00

No asbestos abatement is included in the bond because the district manages asbestos through its normal maintenance operations and the Healthy and Safe Schools and Buildings plan. There will be limited asbestos abatement in areas where construction and or additions require it. There isn’t an intention to abate asbestos as a standalone project.

What is the district’s bond rating?2018-04-22T22:52:14+00:00

The district’s outstanding bonds from 2011 (2008 bond measure) are rated AA+. Future bonds won’t be rated until around the time they are issued for sale.

Why does the district need a bond? Doesn’t the state provide funding for school construction?2018-03-14T23:05:46+00:00

The majority of funds received from the State of Oregon come from the State School Fund for school operations. This money goes into the district’s general fund to support operational costs like teacher and staff wages, benefits, utilities, supplies, etc. Salem-Keizer’s general fund for 2017-18 is about $479.5 million. The bond package slated for the May 15, 2018 ballot, as approved by the School Board, is $619.7 million. The State of Oregon does not provide funding for major capital construction projects.

The Community Facilities Task Force studied all the methods of raising funds that are available to the district and determined that a general obligation bond is the only one that can provide the amount of funding needed. This is not uncommon; Communities in Oregon are largely responsible for funding the capital construction needs of their schools. However, the State has recently implemented a “matching” grant program for capital costs. When voters in a district pass a bond, the district can apply to the state for a matching grant up to a maximum of $8 million. Salem-Keizer has applied for this grant and should voters pass the bond, the district will receive $8 million from the state to put toward construction costs.

Where are the results of the bond feasibility study posted?2018-03-15T17:12:47+00:00

Polling consultants from The Nelson Report and C & M Communications presented polling results to the School Board on May 24, 2017. The presentation includes discussion of the results.

The story about the presentation can be found here in the 2018 Bond Measure Archive.

Click here for a direct link to the PDF of the presentation, which includes results.

On my last Tax Statement, I see amounts for two Salem-Keizer School bonds. Can you tell me the pay-off dates for these?2018-03-01T22:58:42+00:00

On the Marion County property tax statement, the top line shows debt from a measure passed by voters in 1992 and originally issued in 1993. A relatively small amount of this debt was refinanced at a more favorable interest rate for the taxpayer in 2013. Under the current repayment schedule, the refinanced debt from the 1992 measure will be paid off in June 2019. The second line shows debt from the 2008 bond measure passed by voters. Under the current repayment schedule, this debt will be retired in about 12 years (year 2030).

Why doesn’t the bond proposal include building a new high school?2018-02-28T21:50:15+00:00

The bond package includes expanding the capacity of existing school buildings rather than building new schools. The concept resulted from the work of the Community Facilities Task Force and the discussion centered on high school construction. You can read about it in their recommendation to the School Board on page 2 and page 9 of the recommendation report:

In short, the Task Force found that it was more cost effective to expand current high school facilities than to build new. The estimated cost to build a new high school is around $250 million. In addition to being a more expensive option, building a new high school would not satisfy the district’s increased capacity needs, and would not address the infrastructure needs of current high schools. The Task Force also received negative feedback about how the construction of a new high school would force redistricting.

What will the district do if the bond doesn’t pass in May?2018-02-26T17:45:11+00:00

The district would re-evaluate and likely go back to voters with another proposal.

Will I see a big increase in my property tax bill all at one time?2018-02-27T19:12:36+00:00

Bonds are issued in series, meaning they’re offered for sale in smaller batches over time – i.e., not all $619.7 million would be offered in the bond market at once. For example, the 2008 bond was issued in four series: three issues in 2009, and one in 2011. Because the total amount of the bond package is not taken on as debt all at once, the levy rate can vary based on the amount of debt on the books. Laddering bond sales in series helps keep the levy rate as stable as possible by “spreading it out” over time so tax payers don’t pay for the full amount of debt all at once.

Is the district considering selling or swapping property it currently owns to offset some costs of construction?2018-01-24T16:54:52+00:00

The Citizens Facilities Task Force discussed this possibility and discovered that the district doesn’t own enough property that could be swapped to reduce costs by a significant amount.

What happened with the feedback staff gave during design reviews and listening sessions?2018-02-26T23:34:38+00:00

Feedback was compiled into reports for the School Board to consider when determining the final bond package. The reports were also shared with Facilities and Planning staff to be used during the master planning and design process at each school receiving major capital construction. Some things that the Board changed in the package as a result of staff and community feedback include addressing space for music programs, increasing the capacity of West Salem High School from 2,000 up to 2,100 students, and adding a new gym at North Salem High School.

What data do we have from the 2008 bond measure about how much extra money we had due to prudent financial management, etc.?2018-02-26T19:33:46+00:00

The district had approximately $18 million in unspent funds after all projects originally planned under the 2008 bond were completed. The $18 million was a result of a competitive bidding environment, earnings on bond sales and prudent financial management.  A Community Bond Oversight Committee decided to use the unspent funds for additional repairs. The additional funds allowed the district to accomplish more work than was originally planned for the 2008 bond program.

How often have Salem-Keizer bond measures failed?2018-01-24T16:55:09+00:00

We’re fortunate to live in a community that values and supports education with a track record of approving general obligation bonds about every 8 to 10 years. We have records on bonds that passed in 1992, 1998, and 2008. Records on bonds that did not pass are hard to find, but we understand there was a measure for technology that failed sometime the ‘90s.

What was the levy rate increase in 2008 when the last bond was approved?2018-01-24T16:55:13+00:00

In 2008, old debt was paid off as the new bond was passed, so the tax rate stayed the same. Levy rates typically increase and decrease over the life of a bond as debt is retired or refinanced. For example, between 2015 and 2017, the levy rate paid on the 2008 bond decreased by just over 50 cents per thousand of assessed value.

To save cost on buildings, is there any standardization of design and construction?2018-01-24T16:55:18+00:00

There are best practice standards for square footage of different areas within schools, such as classrooms, cafeterias, libraries, etc. These are called education specifications.

Do corporations in Salem and Keizer pay property tax that would go toward the bond?2018-01-24T16:55:41+00:00

Yes. Commercial real estate has an assessed property value which has property taxes levied against it.

Why isn’t lead abatement included in the bond? Portland Public Schools’ bond is addressing lead.2018-02-26T23:26:38+00:00

During the summer of 2016, Salem-Keizer Public Schools voluntarily tested all schools for lead and copper in the water. All fixtures that tested high for lead and copper were addressed at that time. You can find the test results and more information, such as the schedule for lead testing, here on the district website in the Safe and Healthy Buildings Plan page.

How much will the additional classrooms increase number of staff/teachers? Where does the money come from?2018-01-24T16:55:50+00:00

The number of teachers in the district is based on a budgeted class-size ratio (number of students per teacher). This means the number of teachers depends on how many students are enrolled, not how many physical classrooms there are. That being said, if there isn’t room for that budgeted teacher, schools have to get creative with managing space. For example, schools have converted storage into classrooms and portable units have been added. If schools are expanded, teachers and students that are currently in overcrowded conditions will move to newly constructed permanent classroom spaces. Funding for teacher salaries comes from the district’s general fund, which receives money from local, state and federal governments. Bond funds cannot be used to pay for school operating costs, like teacher salaries.

How will schools manage to operate during major construction?2018-01-24T16:55:55+00:00

The plan is to do as much construction as possible during the summer to try and minimize the impact on students and staff. The district has a history of accomplishing significant projects in ten weeks or less. However, there will be some work that will require adjustments to the normal school routine for at least part of a school year. For example, at schools having major expansions where part of a building needs to be demolished, classrooms in that area could be temporarily relocated to portable units. As many accommodations as possible will be made to make sure school continues smoothly while allowing construction to be finished as quickly as possible.

Why does school construction cost so much?2018-02-27T19:16:44+00:00

Today’s educational facilities require a higher level of technology infrastructure, safety features and ADA compliance than schools built decades ago. Governments also have to pay more for construction than private industry. For example, governments are required by law to pay contractors “prevailing wage,” which means labor costs for constructing government buildings are higher than for constructing private buildings. Costs have also increased in recent years because the demand for building is high in our area, in part because of recent bond measures passed in several Oregon school districts. The cost escalation means it is more expensive to build later, so the 2018 bond is organized so that as much construction as possible takes place early in the life of the bond.

Click here to learn about Prevailing Wage on’s webpage. 

Follow this link to read a news story published in the PortlandTribune about construction cost increases in Beaverton.

How accurate are the population projections you used to create this plan? I’m concerned that actual enrollment growth is going to be more than projected.2018-02-26T19:36:06+00:00

It’s important to engage experts and carefully analyze potential enrollment growth, but it is equally important to remember that it is impossible to accurately predict the future. The experts contracted to create the projections provide the best estimates possible.

To create and refine projections, the district worked with two different organizations that have expertise in population studies. Portland State University’s Population Research Center (PRC) performed an enrollment forecast in August 2016. The Oregon Legislature designated the PRC as the entity responsible for coordinating population forecasting for Oregon’s counties and cities. FLO Analytics, a data analysis firm that has expertise in community planning, analyzed the PRC study and provided some refinements, particularly around West Salem population growth estimates.

Additionally, district Facilities & Planning Department staff are keeping a close eye on actual enrollments so they can identify where plans may need to be adjusted.

What kind of levy rates are other communities paying for their school bonds?2018-02-26T17:44:18+00:00

Here’s a comparison of 2017 levy rates for some Oregon school districts.Chart comparing Oregon school districts' 2017 Bond Rates

If the district can afford $700,000 to send teams to Bend because of the OSAA reorganization, why do they need this bond?2018-02-23T16:18:13+00:00

The district cannot afford $700,000 to send teams to Bend. That number was used to serve as a reason for the OSAA to not place Salem-Keizer in a league with Bend schools, and it was based on if the district did business as usual – that is, schedules the same number of contests and sends as many teams, bands and cheerleaders as it would in a local competition. Salem-Keizer is not only appealing the OSAA ruling, but it’s also looking at a number of cost-saving measures to minimize the financial and educational impacts should the appeal fail.

Additionally, school travel costs are paid for through the district’s general fund. The general fund is the main operating budget of the district. Bond dollars cannot go into the general fund – they can only be used for capital projects.

Doesn’t Lottery money help with building costs?2018-02-26T16:49:48+00:00

According to the Oregon Lottery website, 57% of lottery dollars (after paying expenses and winners) is shared among four areas of education in the state. One of those four areas is the State School Fund, which is the source of operational funding for school districts in Oregon. Money received from the State School Fund goes into Salem-Keizer’s general fund, and is used to pay for costs like staff wages and benefits, utilities, supplies, etc. The lottery website reports that in the 2015-17 biennium, about $30 million in lottery grants was contributed to Salem-Keizer through the State School Fund (Click to view the PDF of Marion County 2015-17 Biennium Lottery Funding).

How is the marijuana tax revenue used?2018-02-27T19:07:56+00:00

The total revenues received from the state through the State School Fund, which include lottery funds and marijuana taxes, are to be used for general operations, not capital construction. Because of the way the state’s funding for K-12 education is calculated and structured, at this time, marijuana tax revenue is not expected to significantly change the amount of money Salem-Keizer receives from the state.

How do bonds work? Does the district take out loans then pay it back with taxes?2018-04-30T15:50:13+00:00

The bonds offered are municipal bonds. The district offers bonds for sale and pays investors back plus interest from property taxes that are not subject to legislative limitations like Measure 5. Some of the bonds offered for sale are tax-free, which can be attractive to large investors.

When bonds are issued for sale, they are offered in packages – the whole bond package amount approved by the voters is not usually issued all at one time. The offerings are based on the construction schedule over a 6- to 8-year period. As the packages are paid off, the levy rate will fluctuate year-by-year.

How much is included in the bond package for cost escalation?2018-02-23T16:28:46+00:00

Based on the annual cost escalation other school districts in Oregon are experiencing on construction projects, the School Board approved a package that includes cost escalation of six percent per year.

What can bond funds be used for?2018-01-24T15:26:16+00:00

Bond funds can only be used for costs associated with items listed on the ballot, and cannot be used for general operations like school costs, staff salaries, benefits, utilities, etc.

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