It’s unknown what the next step for Hermiston School District officials will be after a $104 million bond proposal failed.
The measure, placed on Tuesday’s special election ballot, garnered 1,655 votes, 42 percent, in favor and 2,295, 58 percent, opposed. It needed a simple majority to pass.
The money would have allowed the district to replace Rocky Heights and Highland Hills elementary schools, build a new elementary and add 14 classrooms to Hermiston High School.
District officials said the additional space was needed to house a growing population. Projections show the district will add roughly 1,100 more students in the next seven years, an increase of 24 percent.
They predict if more classrooms aren’t added, roughly one-fifth of the students will be in modular classrooms by 2023.
The construction would have increased security and replaced aging roofs and utility equipment, according to campaign materials from the district.
“We were extremely disappointed to learn that voters did not approve the ballot measure,” said Fred Maiocco, Hermiston’s superintendent. “The election results indicate that we have more work to do in educating the community about the challenges facing our growing district.”
The district spent the past three years studying the potential bond, and included staff and community members in the conversation. The bond’s defeat leaves the school board and the superintendent questioning what to do next.
“It allows us to step back and have open conversations with our community leaders to find out what the underlying root was,” said Maria Duron, the district’s communication officer.
Some residents, through letters to the editor and Facebook comments, balked about the 90 cents per $1,000 of assessed value the bond would have added to their property tax bills.
Without the extra funding, Maiocco said the district has to decide between adding portable classrooms or paying for classroom supplies, textbooks and wages.
“This means we will try to minimize the number of leased classrooms and necessarily swell class sizes above what you have historically enjoyed,” he said. “Even with the added challenges ahead, I know that our students will have an outstanding experience in our schools because of your commitment to excellence.”
The district last approached the public for a bond in 2008, when 53 percent of the public agreed to a $70 million bond. The money paid to replace two elementary schools and a middle school.