The Baker School District has been awarded a $4 million state matching grant to be paired with a $4 million bond measure the District is considering asking voters to approve in the May election to fund school improvements.

Only school districts that plan to submit a general obligation bond measure in the May 18 election were allowed to apply, Superintendent Mark Witty explained in a press release. Those chosen must successfully pass bond measures to collect the matching money.

Although no decision has yet been made, the Baker School Board has been discussing the possibility of seeking voter approval of a pared-down bond measure since a $48 million plan was defeated in November 2018.

The District had qualified for the $4 million matching grant in that round of applications, but did not receive the state money provided by the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching (OSCIM) grant program because the measure failed.

The Board qualified for the $4 million grant a second time, but that money was not awarded after the District withdrew its 2020 plan to seek approval of a $7.5 million bond measure because of the downturn in the economy that resulted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the current plan, the $4 million bond, accompanied by the matching grant and another $4 million from the District’s Capital Projects Fund, would be used to upgrade mechanical and electrical systems in all schools and to build a kitchen/cafeteria at Baker Middle School. Safety and security improvements also would be made at every school, Witty said.

The District also would plan to use a portion of its share of state money received through the Student Investment Account of the Student Success Act, approved by the 2019 Legislature, to fund the improvements, Witty has stated in prior meetings.

The Board will continue its discussion of the bond proposal during a Zoom work session beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21. More information about how to join that meeting is available by calling the District Office at 541-524-2260 or on the District’s website at baker5j.org (scroll to the calendar listing Board meetings near the center of the cover page).

The public is invited to offer input during the session, Witty stated in the press release.

A final decision about whether to place the $4 million measure on the ballot will be made during the Board’s Feb. 18 meeting.

Witty said the Baker School District was one of 11 approved to receive a combined $43.1 million in OSCIM grant money if their bond measures are approved in the May election.

Of those chosen for the matching grants, 60% were awarded on a priority basis to smaller, more rural districts with lower property value, Witty said. The other grants were distributed on a first-come, first-served basis according to when the applications were submitted.

As part of their applications, the districts were required to describe the types of projects the grant would fund and present a facilities assessment and a long-range facilities plan, Witty said.

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