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Oregon Voters Give School Bonds Mixed Results

<p>Seaside High School is slated to be relocated out of the tsunami inundation zone, after voters approved a November 2016 bond measure. </p>

Alan Sylvestre

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Seaside High School is slated to be relocated out of the tsunami inundation zone, after voters approved a November 2016 bond measure.

Tuesday night’s election results showed voters were not interested in the big corporate tax hike, Measure 97. But a number of Oregon communities approved smaller taxes for local schools.

The Seaside district approved a bond worth nearly $100 million. The money would replace three schools at risk of a coastal earthquake and tsunami.

“This is an opportunity for us to relocate our schools," said former superintendent, and champion of the bond campaign, Doug Doherty. "Not only will this be something that’ll be benefit our students but it’ll improve the lives of our children and families for generations to come.”

The new schools would also be evacuation spots if there’s an earthquake.

The biggest school bonds on the Oregon ballot passed: $433 million in North Clackamas, and Tigard-Tualatin voters passed a bond worth $291 million.

A number of the bond measures on the ballot had an extra incentive: millions in matching funds from the state. Districts from the Idaho border to the Pacific Ocean are getting up to $8 million in matching money from the state, after passing local school bonds Tuesday. Eastern Oregon districts like Umatilla and Vale were among the first in line for state matching funds leading into Election Day, and getting approval guaranteed them state money. Same for the western Oregon districts of Crow-Applegate-Lorane and Sherwood.

Even with the incentive of a possible state match, a number of bonds failed. Voters in the relatively small rural districts of Blachly, Estacada, Jefferson, Riddle and Vernonia were all failing to pass measures — together foregoing a total of $15 million in state matching funds.

Those schools' losses are other districts' gains. The Monroe, Seaside and St. Helens districts were toward the bottom of the state's matching bond list, and could only receive money if voters elsewhere turned down their school bonds. With several bond failures, those three districts became eligible.

State officials said the result for the Gresham-Barlow School District was still too close to call Wednesday afternoon. That uncertainty creates a domino effect of uncertainty. The Tigard-Tualatin and North Clackamas school districts both qualified for matching funds, but until the dust settles in Gresham, state officials said it's not clear how much money North Clackamas and Tigard-Tualatin will receive.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Rob Manning has been both a reporter and an on-air host at OPB. Before that, he filled both roles with local community station KBOO and nationally with Free Speech Radio News. He's also published freelance print stories with Portland's alternative weekly newspaper Willamette Week and Planning Magazine. In 2007, Rob received two awards for investigative reporting from the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and he was part of the award-winning team responsible for OPB's "Hunger Series." His current beats range from education to the environment, sports to land-use planning, politics to housing.