The Baker School Board and district officials recognize the reality — district voters won’t approve a property tax measure to build a new elementary school.
Voters expressed their disdain for that plan, in an unequivocal way, last November when they rejected a $48 million measure. More than two-thirds of those who voted — 68% — were opposed.
We endorsed that measure.
And we continue to believe that the problems it would have addressed, including overcrowding at Brooklyn and South Baker schools, and a surplus of space at Baker High School, ought to be addressed.
The Board hasn’t made any decisions about how to proceed, but its initial discussions about a potential new measure are encouraging.
The preliminary plan is comparatively modest monetarily, at an estimated $6 million. The overall project would cost about $12 million, including a $4 million state grant and $2 million from the district.
Details of the possible bond measure are yet to be determined. But the financial burden on property owners certainly would be less — both in the amount per $1,000 of assessed value, and the length of time the higher tax rate would apply, which is likely to be no more than 15 years rather than the 30 years that last year’s measure would have extended.
But though the cost would be less onerous, the benefits would still be substantial. The proposal that board members discussed last week would alleviate crowding at Brooklyn and South Baker by removing one grade level from each school. Brooklyn, which now houses kindergartners and first-, second- and third-graders and has about 117 more students than it’s designed for, would lose third-graders.
They would move to South Baker, which would serve third- and fourth-graders rather than students in grades 4, 5 and 6 as is the case now.
Fifth- and sixth-graders would move to the Helen M. Stack building, the current Baker Middle School.
And the seventh- and eighth-graders who are in that building now would move to a renovated, and separate, section at Baker High School, where the current enrollment, in grades 9-12, is about 380 students below what the campus can accommodate.
The details, as mentioned, are uncertain. Nor is it clear whether a measure would go on the ballot this November or in May 2020.
But it’s obvious that 5J officials heard voters’ message in November.
— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor