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Grants Pass school district is asking voters to approve a new property tax

The property tax would impact all homeowners that live in the school district.

Posted: Oct 11, 2019 10:27 AM
Updated: Oct 30, 2019 2:43 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Property owners might see an increase in taxes next year. The property tax increase will hit Grants Pass homeowners that live in the Grants Pass school district. The district is hoping voters will approve the tax on November 5. The money from the tax will provide more than $95 million dollars to the school district.

North Middle School in Grants Pass is one of the schools that could use these funds, according to district officials. Parents told NewsWatch12 the class size continues to grow and the school can't accommodate the increase in students anymore. Enrollment has steadily increased since 2000. In 1999, North Middle had 671 students. District official, Sherry Ely, told NewsWatch12 the school capacity is ideally around 700 students. This year, the school has 818 students, well above suggested capacity. 

"We’re so over capacity at North - not only do we have seismic issues, we have overcrowding issues," Ely said. " We could make the building a little bit safer if we put more money into it, but it won’t address the overcrowding issues."

District officials say the $95 million dollars will be used to renovate schools throughout the district. However, 70 percent of that will be used to completely replace North Middle School. The remaining funds will be used to upgrade HVAC systems across the district, replace the roof on some schools, update and enlarge bathrooms and make the schools more energy efficient by updating the electric.

Ely said rebuilding North Middle is a priority because it's overcrowded and not seismically safe. She said they already tried applying for seismic grants for the school, but unfortunately, did not qualify. 

"We weren't even able to qualify for the seismic grants because of the amount of work that would have to be done to bring it up to a structural integrity perspective," she said. 

Contractors examined the middle school and reported the building requires so much work, it would be best to replace it, instead of update it. Because the school can't qualify for grants, the district is left asking voters to approve the $95 million dollar property tax.

CONTEXT: Grants Pass School District showcases need for renovation funds

Phil King has been a Grants Pass homeowner for more than 30 years. He said, "I am all about schools, but that's kind of a hard hit that much of an increase in taxes."

King and his wife just retired. He said an increase in property taxes will make things even tighter for them.

"It would be a pretty hard-hit. I wish that there was an alternative that wasn't so impactful on our finances," he said. 

If approved, the property tax will impact every homeowner that lives in the district. Each year, homeowners would pay an additional $2.59 per thousand dollars of assessed value. So for example, a $200,000 home would have an additional $500 increase in taxes every year for possibly the next 10 years.

One Josephine County homeowner said he's worried for the future of residents in Southern Orgeon.

"As a whole, any tax increases will just be passed on to renters and homeowners," the homeowner said. "Our housing costs are already so high compared to the rest of the state."

NewsWatch 12 spoke with parents from North Middle School.

"I think it's just the bigger picture that we need to look at," Sarah Shriver, parent of a 7th grader at North, said. "Like the future of Grants Pass and the future for our kids, I think that's really an important thing to look at. I see how much these teachers put in with their own time, I think that they all deserve it where they can have a good place for them to grow and have a better learning environment."

The Grants Pass school district tried to pass a similar bond in May 2018. That bond failed to pass.

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