PLEASANT HILL -- For the first time in nearly a decade, the Pleasant Hill School District will ask voters for more money to renovate and upgrade the district's facilities.

The small district off Highway 58 is putting a $17.95 million school bond on the May ballot. Most of those funds would pay to replace two wings at Pleasant Hill High School and create a separate area for middle-schoolers, who currently share space at the high school.

The bond would move sixth-graders from the elementary school to the high school, and would build a new gym at the high school, largely for middle-schoolers to use, Superintendent Tony Scurto said.

Bond funds also would pay for four new classrooms at the elementary school to accommodate the district's increasing enrollment and would update technology at the district's two schools, Scurto said.

The rural district of about 900 students hasn't asked voters to pass a bond this large since 1996. That measure, which was about $9.64 million, passed by a slim margin, with just 50.3 percent voter approval.

Voters passed a bond in 2004 to upgrade the high school's heating system, which cost about $2 million.

The measure is one of just two money measures on the May ballot. The Fern Ridge School District is asking voters to pass a $26.67 million bond that would replace Elmira Elementary School.

If Pleasant Hill voters approve the $17.95 million bond, taxes would increase by about 52 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The current rate for school bonding is $1.63 per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $245 a year for the owner of a home assessed at $150,000.

That rate would increase to anywhere between $2.15 and $2.20 per $1,000 of assessed value if the bond passes, and would be close to the average rate that taxpayers have been paying for bonding during the past decade, Scurto said.

The district wants to keep the new bonding tax rate close to its average -- which is $2.25 per $1,000 of assessed value -- because the current bonding rate is unusually low for the district, Scurto said. The new bond would replace the two previous bonds that will both expire in 2016, he said.

Owners of a home assessed at $150,000 in the district pay a total of about $941 a year for all school operations, or $6.27 per $1,000 of assessed value, which includes the district's permanent tax rate and its bonding rate..

If the bond fails, the annual cost for a taxpayers with a $150,000 home would drop to $696 a year starting in 2016, as the existing bonds expired.

With the two bond funds set to expire soon and with the district more financially stable, this seemed like the right time to reach out to voters, school board vice chairman Kevin Parrish said.

Parrish said he's been involved in efforts to upgrade the district's facilities for years. The high school, he said, was built in the 1960s and isn't suited for the digital age.

Instead of replacing the high school, the district determined it would be more financially feasible to make renovations.

"We've got a lot of folks who are very common sense," Parrish said of a voter base that might question whether the district needed a new high school building.

"We're trying to be better stewards."

Community member and parent Darlene Baker has been organizing a group of about 20 people who plan to go door-to-door and attend community meetings to encourage "yes" votes.

The group, called "Continued Excellence," isn't raising any money for the campaign and is not an official political action committee, Baker said.

She said she thinks voters will appreciate that the district is being reasonable with its money request.

"We're living within our means," Baker said. "I think that makes people receptive to getting behind us because we're not trying to be extravagant or unreasonable."

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