Warrenton schools finalize $38.5M bond

Voters in Warrenton will be asked to approve a $38.5 million bond for school improvements in November.

WARRENTON — The Warrenton-Hammond School Board on Tuesday finalized a 31-year, $38.5 million bond that will go before voters in November.

The money would pay for the purchase of a new master campus, likely on Warrenton Fiber land along Dolphin Avenue, and the construction of a new middle school to relieve overcrowding at Warrenton Grade School.

The bond is part of a longer-term effort to move all the school district’s campuses out of the tsunami inundation zone. A facilities committee also recommended a 2022 bond to move the high school to the master campus, and a 2032 bond to move the elementary school.

Mark Jeffery, superintendent in Warrenton, said the bond is warranted because of the school district’s need for more space to accommodate growing enrollment, to move students away from tsunami danger and for the increased security of a modern campus.

“I think it’s the right thing, and if we don’t start now, when?” Jeffery said. “Our challenges aren’t going to change.”

The bond is expected to raise property taxes by $2.03 per $1,000 of assessed value. The overall property tax burden in the school district is projected to be $2.68 per $1,000 of assessed value through 2049 if the bond passes.

The facilities committee had initially recommended a $32.4 million bond to buy the campus and build the middle school. But the costs of preparing the preferred campus site and constructing a new middle school came back higher than expected, Jeffery said. If the bond passes in November, the district will also receive a $4 million matching grant from the state.

Tom Rogozinski, principal of Warrenton Grade School for six years, said enrollment was around 573 when he started but is now approaching 800. The school is now one of the most populous K-8 campuses in the state. The school district has been converting every usable space inside the building into classrooms and offices, while adding several portables outside.

“Our building is set up for 541 students,” he said. “We can put portables everywhere, but we don’t get more bathrooms, we don’t get more gym space, we don’t get more cafeteria space. And I think that really has been resonant for our staff over the past few years.”

Members of the facilities committee touted the need for a new campus. Pam Ackley, a Warrenton city commissioner and local real estate agent, said it is estimated that the region needs 350 new homes in the next five years to accommodate growth.

Len Mossman, a police officer and former school board member who was recently reappointed to fill a vacancy, said that each portable is another building to secure, and that kids are not as safe as they would be in a main building.

School board member Dalan Moss said the new campus gives the school district a higher level of purpose.

“The portables are an expensive Band-Aid for the growth problem,” he said.

The bond will help the school district invest in staff and provide students with a modern educational experience, said Debbie Morrow, the school board chairwoman.

“This bond represents long-term thinking … for how we will manage our schools and collective resources,” she said.

County voters will consider several bond measures in November. The Astoria School District is asking voters for $70 million to rebuild much of Astoria Middle School, along with security improvements and modernization at its other campuses. Clatsop County is seeking $20 million to move the county jail from Astoria to the former North Coast Youth Correctional Facility in Warrenton. Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District is asking for $20 million to expand a recreation center in Seaside.

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