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MailTribune.com
  • Measures 68 and 69: Yes

    Amendments would help school districts and colleges and save taxpayers money
  • Two ballot measures in the May 18 primary election would help school districts replace or repair aging buildings and give colleges and universities a lower-cost option when they need to expand. We recommend yes votes on both.
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  • Two ballot measures in the May 18 primary election would help school districts replace or repair aging buildings and give colleges and universities a lower-cost option when they need to expand. We recommend yes votes on both.
    Measure 68 would amend the state Constitution to give the state the authority to offer matching funds to local school districts whose voters have approved bond measures for capital expenses. The state match would come from general obligation bonds, repaid with lottery proceeds.
    The measure dedicates 15 percent of lottery revenue to the new bond fund. The lottery money already goes into the School Stability Fund. When the stability fund exceeds 5 percent of the state general fund, the excess is available to match local districts' capital expenditures, but without bonding authority, it isn't enough to be of much help.
    The most important change would allow local school districts to use bond measures to remodel and repair existing buildings. The law now allows bonds only for new construction.
    This would reduce the amount local taxpayers would be asked to contribute, and allow districts to catch up on maintenance and repairs that have been postponed because of tight operating budgets in recent years. When new construction is needed, smaller districts now often cannot raise enough money because their tax bases are too small. This measure would make it possible for those districts to build new schools when they are needed.
    The state already is authorized to use bonds to match capital expenditures by Oregon colleges and universities; Measure 68 gives the same benefit to K-12 schools.
    Measure 69 makes a common-sense change in the rules governing how state colleges and universities may pay for expansion.
    When universities and community colleges need more space for classrooms, labs or other uses, state law clearly allows them to issue general obligation bonds to pay for the expansion when it involves new construction. But the law is unclear when it comes to purchasing existing buildings.
    Measure 69 would specifically allow colleges and universities to purchase existing buildings with money from general obligation bonds, which carry the lowest interest rate available. Buying existing buildings is generally less expensive than constructing new ones.
    Measure 69 does not increase the amount of debt colleges may incur, and the law still requires the Oregon University System to have enough money in its budget to pay for the bonds.
    Enrollment at community colleges and public universities is on the rise. Southern Oregon University just announced the largest spring term enrollment in its history.
    Rising enrollment means colleges and universities need more space. It only makes sense for them to acquire it in the least expensive way possible.
    The Mail Tribune Editorial Board recommends a yes vote on ballot measures 68 and 69.
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