Editorial: Culver bond needs well-informed voters

Published Jul 6, 2013 at 05:00AM

Culver School District officials will try again in November to persuade voters to approve a bond measure for school improvements. It will be the district’s third attempt to raise money since 2011, and the need for the bond has not diminished.

Yet clearly the district has been unable to sell voters on that idea. That’s no doubt due in part to a still-ragged economy, but misinformation about past district decisions and current district financing also have played a role. The district must correct that information if it is to succeed this time around.

First, the need. Portions of the district’s elementary school are more than 50 years old and lack much of the structural support modern buildings must have. They do not meet current seismic codes, for example, even the relatively modest requirements for buildings east of the Cascades.

Perhaps more important, the middle and elementary schools are heated by a boiler system that has teetered on failure for years, and as time passes patching becomes increasingly expensive and less likely to last.

The district also faces residual mistrust over a land purchase made in 2008. The purchase was made, perfectly legally, without voter approval, and that left some people unhappy. Officials must explain why, now, they’re seeking voter approval to pay the bond off.

Finally, some voters may misunderstand the way Oregon schools are funded and worry the district is getting shorted. When students transfer in from elsewhere, the money follows them to the new district. Thus, if Culver has four transfer students from Madras, it receives money for those students that otherwise would have gone to the students’ home district.

The school board has not yet decided how much money it will ask for, though that decision may come next week. Meanwhile, its members should think hard how they will educate voters on everything from need to district finances.