A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Whom we should thank for new schools

Written September 18th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Nice thought, that banner outside the new Oak Grove School in North Albany, but are they thanking the right people?

If gratitude is in order, shouldn’t it go to the property owners who are footing the bill? The taxpayers who are paying for two new grade schools, big additions to both Albany high schools, and all the other improvements throughout the Greater Albany Public Schools?

It’s not a small item, if you’ll recall.

The $159 million bond authorization that is funding the Albany school projects passed on May 2017. It was approved by 7,605 voters, while another 6,463 said no. (Only $152 million in bonds was eventually sold, but because of a couple of other transactions these bonds are financing a construction program totaling $187 million.)

The citizens who vote are not necessarily the people who pay, although there’s probably a substantial overlap. The bill goes to owners of taxable real estate, and others pay indirectly, through rents, or the prices at local stores, or through their utility bills. (Electric and gas utilities as well as Century Link are among the top ten property taxpayers in either Linn or Benton County, or both.)

It is property taxpayers in the Albany school district who will contribute to amortizing the construction bonds until the principal and interest are paid off. For the current fiscal year, paying on the bonds will take $12,945,700. Of that amount, $5,930,000 goes toward the principal, and $7,015,700 is interest.

Half of the bonds will be paid off in 2027, and the rest in 2037.

For the 2017 bond issue, together with several much smaller outstanding debts for financing bus purchases and such, the school district as of now expects to still pay $144,666,087 in principal and more than $67 million in interest for a a total of $213,284,681 by fiscal year 2036-37.

This will all come from taxpayers including those who voted no in 2017, as well as those 60-some percent of eligible citizens who didn’t vote at all. So when it comes to the new school facilities that for years will benefit students and the public in general, you can see whom we should thank. (hh)

22 responses to “Whom we should thank for new schools”

  1. J. J says:

    According to the author’s theory, we should be thankful for all the insouciant citizens who failed to show up and vote…their lassitude made even more pathetic because voting in Oregon is, after all, such a difficult task, requiring one to tear open an envelope, make some blue or black check marks and then find the wherewithal to purchase and use a stamp.

    Albany’s apathy is so pervasive that even with needed newt schools on the line, 60% of the populace failed to do that most unchallenging task – voting. Rather than congratulating this sleepy bunch of Albany citizens, perhaps Hering ought to chastise them for their lack of civic responsibility.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    You are correct, GAPS should thank the taxpayers, no matter how they did or did not vote.

    And given plurality voting, the bond measure simply won more yes votes than no votes. The measure did not win a majority of registered voters.

    But please do not infer from this article that people who don’t pay the property tax shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Or that the number of votes someone receives be tied to the amount they pay in property taxes. Going there would be undemocratic.

    Like it or not, plurality voting has been in existence since the beginning of our Republic.

    It can be ugly, however, because it reveals how apathetic voters can be sometimes.

    • H. R. Richner says:

      Restricting voting rights to property owners is respecting our historic founders who started our republic in that way. The least we could do is to readopt this tradition for issues directly involving our property taxes. So what if it is “undemocratic?”

      “We the people,”which is constantly and frivolously used as evidence to “prove” we are a democracy is not part of the body of our Constitution which never even mentions the word “democracy.” We are a great republic, period.

      • Hasso Hering says:

        The preamble is not part of the Constitution? Seems to me it sets out the reason for the whole rest of it.

        • H. R. Richner says:

          “Courts will not interpret the Preamble to confer any rights or powers not granted specifically in the Constitution.”


      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Yes, the Republic did have some voting restrictions at its founding. But since then there have been numerous court decisions that have restricted the states from excluding individuals who have an interest in the outcome of an election.

        This goes beyond pecuniary interest.

        If we’re going to have a public education system, then everyone residing in a school district has a substantial interest in the outcome of a bond measure.

        You can’t weed out some voters because their wallet won’t be directly affected.

        I’d like to suggest that the issue you raise isn’t voting rights.

        The issue seems to be: Is education a public good that must be provided by government at taxpayer expense? Or is education a commodity each family should be free to buy, or not? That is the debate we should be having.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “If we’re going to have a public education system, then everyone residing in a school district has a substantial interest in the outcome of a bond measure.”

          They do, whether or not they take an interest in the process…

          “Is education a public good that must be provided by government at taxpayer expense? Or is education a commodity each family should be free to buy, or not? That is the debate we should be having.”

          I believe that “debate” is a settled issue. For many[!] generations, towns (governments) have banded together to pay for “school marms,” etc. RRs donated land for schools, etc. All knowing full well it was better to have kids educated. It’s always been the rich who were able to fund & supply the much better universities. That’s not a problem IMO inasmuch as kids would get a basic education. My, how times have changed as to what constitutes a “basic” education!

    • centrist says:

      It’s a given that those who voted rendered an opinion.
      Those who chose not to vote also rendered an opinion, but it plays no part on the decision.

  3. J. Jacobson says:

    My sincerest thanks to the 60% of Albany electorate who could not be bothered to fill-in their ballot. Thanks to this focused, committed group, Albany is condemned to endlessly repeat the same sequence, similar to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

    Imagine a successful community where 60-percent of eligible voters could care less – one way or the other – about the very future of their own. Given this damning statistic on voter apathy, Albany will reap the reward it so richly deserves.

  4. craigz says:

    Last years tax statement: $5,118.00 total (went up 6.5%). Of that, nearly half is for the School District $2,505.00 . I have paid into this district now for 23 years, God willing maybe another 15-20. Never had children in school here, nor grandchildren, nor will I ever. The big thing is increases to all of us. All our bills go up by far more than we take in. So we cut here, cut there or dip into what little is in savings. Now we are on Social Security, where recipients rarely get an increase (if so 2%)….”fixed income”. Funny in an odd way, I had to define to a Millennial what “fixed income” means. Looking forward to another fat increase in property taxes this November. We tax payers live within our means….will Government ever do the same ?

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Taxes are not about what you get personally from them. Otherwise we’d all be free riders of the system in some kind of libertarian heaven. Is your house on fire? Better get some quotes quick.

      Answering to your particular issue. You didn’t have children using the district, but sure you want to live in a place where the pharmacist technician knows how to count pills, the waiter can write your order, or the gardener can read safety instructions of a dangerous product.

      If you don’t like paying taxes, I suggest you move to Somalia. Seems like a fun libertarian place to live.

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    If gratitude is in order, shouldn’t it go to the property owners who are footing the bill?”

    You answered your own question:

    “The bill goes to owners of taxable real estate, and others pay indirectly, through rents, or the prices at local stores, or through their utility bills…This will all come from taxpayers including those who voted no in 2017, as well as those 60-some percent of eligible citizens who didn’t vote at all.”

    That is as it should be. It harkens back to my earlier comment in another column about folks getting off their hind-ends and getting involved. What does it take to galvanize someone to not be so apathetic?

  6. Steve Reynolds says:

    That’s a bit unfair Hasso… There’s two groups you should be thanking, first, all those that eliminated the double majority under Measure 56 and second, all those that are paying for housing.

    How it use to be under Measure 50 (M50):

    “Local option taxes can be used for operations or capital improvements. Exempt bond
    levies are used to repay general obligation bonds. To impose an exempt bond levy, the
    district must get voter approval to issue the bonds. The bonds must be approved at a
    general election or “50%-turnout” election. Once the bonds are approved and issued,
    the taxing district can impose the taxes needed to repay the principal and interest on the debt.”


    The elimination of the double majority under Measure 56 (M56) has basically made it so that the 12 to 14% of the citizens that almost always vote “yes” on borrowing pass this debt with relative ease. It use to be not voting was a de facto “no” vote, now it’s a de facto “yes” vote, most individuals that vote are motivated, those asking for money are always highly motivated. M56 also gives a big advantage to those marketing these bonds/levies, that’s why they’re almost always tag lined as, “your taxes won’t go up”, “your safety is at risk”, “it’s for the children”. As a result, they just need to turn a small percentage of voters, and you’ll notice most bonds and levies pass. In the past, it use to be hard to pass a bond, the community really had to be behind it, no so much any longer.

    The second group you want to thank is those that pay for housing in some way. As you may know our property tax compounds at an increase of 3% per year against the Maximum Assessed Value (MAV); the value you tax against. MAV is basically the price/value of your home in 1997/98 plus a 3% increase on that value per year (year after year). Your first year taxes under M50, back in the late 90’s, was the 1997/98 price/value or Real Market Value. The next year the 1997/98 price/value went up 3% and you were taxed on that amount, the next year it went up 3% again, calculated against the total of the 1997/98 price/value plus the 3% increase from the first year, you’re now taxed against that amount and so on over the years. As long as the value of your home doesn’t fall below the 1997/98 price/value plus these 3% increases, this is the amount you are taxed against. Our tax rate is one percent of the MAV to fund the city/county government, 1/2 percent to fund the schools PLUS whatever bonds and levies that have been passed, it’s always some small amount against each $1000 of MAV.

    As Hasso pointed out, property owners pay this bill every year, they write the checks and have to figure out where they’re going to get the money to fund the government. However, someone that rents definitely pays the property tax also, it’s just included in the rent. If they have a $3600 property tax bill on the home or apartment they rent, $300 of their monthly rent pays the property tax, landlords become the tax collector. Now here’s where it gets interesting, Oregon as of this year is under rent control, a landlord can not raise rents each year above an amount established by the legislature (at this time it is 7%) plus whatever inflation number the federal government comes up with for that year. Salem will be publishing the first increase for this bill (SB608) at the end of September, the increase can then go into effect after a 90 day notice to the renter. So now it appears many landlords are going to treat the rent controls established by the legislature the same way the county does their M50 assessing. The county can only assess up to a maximum 3% per year on 1997/98 home values, but they’re always increased 3%, they never say “Well… let’s do 2% this year”. Landlords seem to be going to follow the same plan, because they have no idea what rent increase levels the legislature will set the following year. It doesn’t take long to figure out if you have capped rental revenue but uncapped government expenditure, this could be a real problem.

    Add in Urban Growth Boundaries and HB 2000 where it appears we have unfunded mandates on local government in the form of infrastructure and it gets really complicated, the city may have no choice but to go back and put more debt on the back of the housing inventory, a catch 22. It’s no wonder we have such a huge issue with homelessness, we’re putting a lot of pressure on people to perform just to live, so many citizens falling through the cracks.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      That’s what unfettered capitalism got you. Homeless living under bridges while Trump golfs at his country club, at yours and my expense, and North Albany bemoans the appearance of a few apartment buildings.

      With 60% of Albany voters too busy to participate in their own governance, it should come as no surprise when the criminals, scammers and con artists move-in and slither through the cracks.

    • Wendy says:

      Well said Steve Reynolds.

  7. J. Jacobson says:

    If Albany residents were willing to engage in real population/reproduction control, in a serious manner, the populace would shrink, providing equivalent relief on Albany schools, police, fire, library and taxpayers.

    Social jiggering on this scale can only be accomplished with the genuine support of elected leadership – the very essence of representative democracy.

    Even the most cursory examination of area demographics makes it clear. There is little sympathy for serious population control amongst the Albany Ruling Class. Their seat at the throne depends on inertia … the status quo.

    Given this sad reality, the immediate future seems clear. A burgeoning population thoughtlessly reproducing like so many rabbits. The strain is already evident. No sane person living in Albany for the past 20-years can say honestly say that conditions have improved as a result of the verminous growth.

    • centrist says:

      JJ more than once you’ve brought up population control. Declare please

    • John Marble says:

      Gosh, I’m always interested in a discussion of population control, land use, politics, policy, etc. But really, JJ, your use of a term like verminous makes it difficult to take you seriously.

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      No one follows these Neomalthusian ideas on population growth anymore. You’d need to review your latest reading in demography. I’d suggest you reading the Italian demographer Massimo Livi Bacci for a more accurate picture.

      But, in short, no. Oregon has a extremely low population density and can accommodate way more people, especially if we density our sprawly cities.

      Oregon is approximately the size of Britain and they have 60 million while we have less than 5. True that the most part of Oregon is high desert, but the Willamette Valley could host 10 million people easily.

  8. hj.anony1 says:

    Hasso, giddy up on yo bike. These signs are out front of several Albany Public schools. Maybe not all. But ….jeez. Kick a hornets nest for fun?

  9. centrist says:

    Going for the “man bites dog” story.


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