June 13, 2008
For immediate release
Gresham-Barlow School Board approves construction excise tax
The Gresham-Barlow School Board voted to approve an excise tax on new construction at its June 12 school board meeting.
In the last legislative session, state lawmakers passed a law allowing school districts the ability to pay for a portion of new or expanded school facilities through an excise tax on development.
The tax will be $1 per square foot on residential construction and 50 cents per square foot on non-residential construction, not to exceed $25,000 per building permit or $25,000 per structure, whichever is less.
The district estimates the excise tax could bring in approximately $700,000 per year, however, the tax in no way would cover the full cost to build a new school. For example, the cost to construct a new elementary school is between $22 and $25 million.
“The excise tax will not solve all of our future growth needs,” said Board Chair Dave Wiederrich. “It is the right thing to do, however, so we can ensure the district has resources in the future to deal with growth.”
The revenue would assist the district in purchasing and preparing sites for future schools, help pay for planning costs associated with new schools, or assist in covering some of the costs of renovations or improvements to existing schools. The district is also planning for a future school bond.
The district is currently dealing with overcrowding due to growth. Enrollment is expected to increase by 2,000 students over the next eight years and many schools are at capacity. The district also needs to renovate several of its existing schools. Almost half of the schools in the district are more than 40 years old. Schools are in need of new roofs, heating, ventilation, plumbing and electrical upgrades, as well as infrastructure for technology for student learning.
The tax will be collected by government entities responsible for issuing building permits. The Gresham-Barlow School District has agreements with the cities of Gresham, Damascus, and Clackamas Counties to collect the tax. The district will be working with Multnomah County and the city of Troutdale to put into place similar agreements. In Gresham, Damascus, and Clackamas County, collection of the tax will begin July 1.
By law, the excise tax does not apply to private schools, churches, public improvements, affordable (HUD) housing, hospital improvements, improvements to religious facilities, or agricultural buildings.
The excise tax option was created with bipartisan support by the Oregon Legislature. Agencies and groups supporting it include the Oregon Home Builders Association, the Oregon School Boards Association, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, Stand for Children and the Oregon PTA.