Home District Bond Project Planning Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How do bonds work?

Bond costs

Are there other sources of funding for construction?

Enrollment growth

Why do we need these projects? How were they identified?

Bond projects

Design for new construction

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Can the bond be used for salaries or to hire more teachers?

Bond funds can only be used for facility projects listed in the ballot measure proposal. Staff are funded through district operating budgets. There is not enough money in the operating budget to fund teachers and student programs and proposed construction projects.

Under state law, Oregon Revised Statute 287A.050-287A.145, general obligation debt –  a bond –  can be incurred for capital construction and improvements that have an expected useful life of more than one year. Bond money can be used to pay for individuals working on bond projects, but not for any other staff in a school district.

Can we use bond money to pay for new books?

Books have a useful life of more than one year, so in theory the answer is yes. Bond dollars are often used to provide equipment and supplies to outfit a new school. GAPS is not planning to spend any of the $159 million on equipment or supplies at any existing school. In addition, bond proceeds can only be used for costs associated with completing the projects listed on the ballot.

How can bond funds used?

Bond proceeds can only be used for costs associated with completing the projects listed on the ballot, not operating costs.

How much will the bond cost taxpayers?

If approved, the 20-year $159 million proposed bond is estimated to cost $2.35 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is an increase of $.64 per $1,000 of assessed property value more than taxpayers have been paying. This is approximately $115 per year for the owner of a home assessed at $180,000.

How are bond costs determined?

Bond costs can be confusing because they are an estimate based on the information we have right now. The actual rate for taxpayers will be based on bond rates at the time of sale and the tax base for the District. The tax base is the assessed value of property, which will change every year depending on movement in property values and sales — if
more people move into our community than expected, the cost of the
measure will be spread out among more property, reducing costs for all
homeowners. The tax rate will stay the same, but the cost to taxpayers may vary from year to year.

What about state lottery money? Where does it go? How much do we get?

Half of all lottery sales pay for prizes for winning tickets, the other half gets divided up within the state. Fifty-seven percent goes to Oregon school districts, 27% goes to job creation and business grants and loans, and 15 % goes to parks and recreation. The remaining one percent pays for gambling addiction help.

The funds provided to school districts do not come as a separate check, but rather are included in the overall state school funding formula that determines how much each school district receives for annual operations.

Are we getting any pot money? Where is that going?

Per House Bill 2041 in 2015, 40% of marijuana tax revenue will flow to the Common School Fund. While proceeds from the Common School Fund are considered local revenue, the funds are included in the overall state school funding formula that determines how much each school district receives for annual operations.

Why doesn’t new construction pay its own way?

The only money the school district receives to help with growing enrollment is the Construction Excise Tax. The tax is paid by developers based on new square footage. The rate for residential developers is currently $1.00 per square foot. The rate for non-residential developers is $0.50 per square foot (with a maximum of $25,000 per building).

The tax is not sufficient to fully fund the construction costs for growing enrollment. For example, a developer who builds 100 homes at an average size of 2,500 square feet would pay $250,000. The cost of a new elementary school today is about $32 million. The cost of a new classroom today is $400,000. A 100-home development would add about 47 students to our school district.

The amount of Construction Excise Tax can vary greatly depending on the amount of new construction permitted in a given year. Over the past two years, new construction in our community has increased and we have received an average of $500,000 per year.

What is the construction excise tax and would it pay for the projects in the bond?

The Legislature created the Construction Excise Tax to help districts with growing enrollment pay for new or expanded facilities to accommodate growth. The tax is paid by developers based on new square footage. The rate for residential developers is currently $1.00 per square foot. The rate for non-residential developers is $0.50 per square foot with a maximum of $25,000 per building.

The tax is not sufficient to fully fund the construction costs for growing enrollment. For example, a developer who builds 100 homes at an average size of 2,500 square feet would pay $250,000. The cost of a new elementary school today is about $32 million. The cost of a new classroom today is $400,000.

The amount of Construction Excise Tax can vary greatly depending on the amount of new construction permitted in a given year. Over the past two years, new construction in our community has increased and we have received an average of $500,000 per year.

Can’t we just say no to building new apartments?

Under Oregon law school districts have no ability to deny development. In Oregon, communities must address their own school facility needs by passing local, voter-approved bonds. The funds provided to school districts through the State School Fund are used for operating costs as well as routine maintenance. GAPS spends between three and four million dollars annually on facilities.

Has the district looked at boundary changes to help with expanding growth and overcrowding at elementary schools?

Almost all elementary schools in the District are at or over enrollment capacity, so a boundary change would not create enough room for the projected growth of 500 new students in the next five years. If the bond is approved, elementary boundaries may be adjusted to even out enrollment when the new school in northeast Albany is constructed.

Why do we need more classrooms and schools?

Our community is growing. According to projections from Portland State University, enrollment in our schools is expected to grow. Current schools will be at capacity and need additional space to accommodate student growth.

 How are bond construction costs determined?

Cost estimates were part of the District Facilities Advisory Committee process. An architect and estimator estimated costs based on current and projected cost standards for the industry.

Hard construction costs for public school projects bid in 2015 have averaged $329 per sq. ft. Hard construction costs include all labor and material required to complete the structure.

Thirty five percent is added to hard construction costs to account for the full cost of completing the project. Those are soft costs, which cover fees for architectural/engineering services, furniture and equipment, project management, permits and system development charges, frontage improvements and a small contingency fund.

The full cost of construction (hard construction cost plus soft costs) in 2015 dollars is estimated to be $444 per square foot. To determine full cost of construction in 2020, the mid-year of bond projects, an inflation factor of 4% per year must be factored to the 2015 full cost amount ($444). This brings the estimated cost per square foot for new construction to $540 per square foot in 2020.

Why doesn’t the District budget for these projects?

The District does regular maintenance on schools and facilities, but the education budget it gets from the state is not enough to fund these big maintenance projects and school programs and operations. It is simply not enough to pay for both.

Construction projects are costly, and our schools are aging. Yearly maintenance budgets can cover the normal maintenance needs of our buildings, but big-ticket items from older buildings — new roofs, HVAC and plumbing — need a bigger investment.

Also, our District is growing. The state funds the educational needs of students — teachers, programs and materials. They don’t fund new buildings for growing enrollment. Communities must pay for new buildings.

What are the bond projects?

If passed, the bond would fund these priorities:

  • Make upgrades and improvements to protect the community’s investment in its existing school buildings.
  • Save energy costs and improve the safety and security of students;
  •  Provide more vocational/technical opportunities at the middle schools and high schools;
  • Address growing enrollment and relieve overcrowding with construction of classrooms and a cafeteria at Oak Grove Elementary School and a new elementary school in NE Albany; and
  • Begin Phase I classrooms/commons/auditorium rebuild of West Albany High School.

The goals will be to make improvements to upgrade existing schools, accommodate growing student enrollment and expand vocational/technical program opportunities.

Find more information about the bond projects on the bond information section of the website.

What is included in the critical facility upgrades projects in the proposal?

Unfunded maintenance includes maintenance and upkeep projects such as roof replacements, interior and exterior painting, replacement/upgrade of window systems, boiler and classroom heating systems, flooring, hardware upgrades, pavement repairs, plumbing repairs and upgrades, etc. These are necessary projects, but there isn’t enough money in the operational budget to address them.

What is the replacement plan for West Albany High School?

West Albany High School was built in 1953 and has had 10 major additions or renovations since it was constructed. The quality of the original construction is lower than many buildings that are much older and still serve a useful purpose, such as Central Elementary School.

The long-term plan for West is to demolish and rebuild the entire facility in two or three phases. The proposed first phase includes key infrastructure, such as a commons, auditorium and cafeteria and new classrooms for vocational technical programs. Those pieces make up a little less than half of the overall replacement for the entire high school campus.

The proposed school construction projects will be funded with bonds sold in two separate series. Half  of the bonds will retire after ten years, and the other half will retire after twenty years.

The community will have an opportunity to approve additional capital projects without increasing taxes after the first series of bonds retire in 10 years. If that is the case, projects could include completing the entire West Albany High School replacement project in 10 years and with only one more phase.

When was the last bond in Greater Albany Public Schools?

Voters approved a bond in 2006 to build Timber Ridge School and Albany Options High School and make improvements at buildings throughout the district. This 10-year bond has been paid off.

Will the new construction be built to green-certified standards?

Currently, there is no plan to seek LEED (Leadership in Energy or Environmental Design) or other “Green” status for the projects. However, we will use good design practices and choose energy efficient system and incorporate sustainable practices into the projects. This means that we want to construct buildings that are energy efficient, easy to maintain, durable, and long lasting. We believe that green begins with dollar savings not plaques on a wall, which are awarded for meeting strict LEED standards. The new building at SAHS is an example of common sense construction that achieves these goals in an economical manner.

Who approves building design? Will the design be based solely on practical features or cosmetics? How did these features affect the budget for Timber Ridge and the new commons at South Albany High School?

School designs and project budgets are approved by the School Board. The school district staff and board believe that both Timber Ridge and the South Albany Commons projects represent an important balance between aesthetics and function. The District is keenly aware of the understandable desire of our community to not spend money frivolously. We make every effort to balance cost efficiency with building design that is inviting, inspiring and built to last.

When a design process starts, District staff meet with architects early to explain the need for smart design that is functional, economical and durable as well as something that enhances our community. A great example of this was the flooring at the South Albany Commons. We ended up with a stained concrete floor that looks good but was economical to construct, will last forever, and is easy and inexpensive to maintain.

Where can I learn more about the bond?

Information about Measure 22-165 is available in many places, including this website, which is updated with information about the bond regularly. The District mailed newsletters to all residents in March. All schools have information in their offices.

You may email questions to info@albany.k12.or.us or ask your school principal.