PHOENIX — Voters in the Phoenix-Talent School District approved a $68-million, 30-year bond measure Tuesday that will result in a rebuild of much of the high school, while all other district campuses receive major upgrades.
Unofficial results released by Jackson County Elections at 9:12 p.m. showed the measure passing with 54 percent of the vote. There were 3,052 votes in favor and 2,570 opposed. Turnout was 32.4 percent of registered voters.
“We are cautiously optimistic it will stay at that spread and we will have a ‘yes, ’ ” said school board member Dawn Watson, who was part of a Back the Bond campaign. “Our main message was safety, security, accessibility and learning environment. I think we did a good job of getting that message out.”
When people visit the schools, their first questions are about safety, Watson said.
“I’m excited that we have the opportunity to improve the safety and the security and the educational environment for all students,” said School Board Chairman Craig Prewitt. “It’s going to build a foundation for the future. It makes me very proud that we live in a community that cares about public education.”
Phoenix High School would get $48.3 million in work, which would see about two-thirds of the current building demolished and replaced. The school was last remodeled in 1988.
Current gym and theater structures would remain because they are sound, but the rest of the building would be taken down. Replacements would include a two-story wing with classrooms and another wing to accommodate the school’s career and technical education and the arts.
“I think people really wanted some upgrades in the career and technical facilities. I think that resonated with the voters,” said Superintendent Brent Berry. “We have amazing programs in that area. To have the facilities catch up with the programs that we have is something that is pretty exciting.”
A $4 million state School Capital Improvement Matching Grant will allow the district to begin design work right away, Berry said. The district already has building assessments, and some of the safety and security issues will be addressed as soon as possible, he said.
District elementary schools and the Talent Middle School would get a combined $22.9 million to deal with maintenance, seismic upgrades, facilities security and other issues.
HVAC systems would be replaced at all schools. All three elementary schools — Phoenix, Talent and Orchard Hill — will have their roofs replaced. Lighting will be improved and areas that don’t conform will be brought up to ADA standards.
A new cafeteria will be built at Orchard Hill Elementary to relieve current crowding and for anticipated future growth. Cafeteria work is also scheduled at Talent Middle School.
A home owner with an assessed property value at $200,000 will pay $298 per year in property taxes for the bond. The rate of the 30-year assessment is $1.49 per $1,000 of assessed value. A current bond levy with a rate of 95 cents per $1,000 will expire in 2020, but under measure provisions the full amount on the new bond will not be assessed initially so the rate would be $1.49 in for the next two years also. District officials reduced the levy by $4 million after they received the state grant.
The district’s bond was the only issue on the ballot in Jackson County. There are 17,370 voters registered in six precincts in the school district.
“I’m hoping we make it to 35 percent. For a money measure it is kind of slow,” Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said Tuesday morning when the count was at 27 percent.
Back the Bond, a committee of supporters formed to promote the measure, hired JWA Consulting, did some advertising, canvased neighborhoods and ran phone banks. Yard signs were placed throughout the district.
“The Phoenix-Talent community is more family than any environment that I have ever lived in,” Prewitt said. “It’s exciting that the community supports our plan for an environment that teaches all kids and reaches all kids.”
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.