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Bond mailer prompts outcry

A postcard mailed to an unknown number of Eagle Point residents is causing headaches for school district officials.

“Your Property taxes will increase by approximately $400,” reads the front of the small card residents discovered in their mail boxes over the weekend.

That’s supposed to refer to the potential impact of Eagle Point’s proposed $95 million bond measure, which residents are voting on in the Nov. 6 election.

But members of the school district’s bond committee quickly responded to the mailer, which they say is misleading and inaccurate, by sending out information of their own and filing a complaint with the secretary of state against the mysterious mailers.

Nita Lundberg, chair of the Eagle Point School Board, had strong feelings about the person or persons responsible for the mailer deciding to remain anonymous.

“This kind of hiding behind a name that isn’t registered, not coming forward with who you are — it is a low form of maneuvering, trying to manipulate a base of voters,” Lundberg said. “I find that pretty disgusting.”

The bond committee filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office on the grounds that the mailer contained misinformation, and the group paying for it, identified only as “citizens for better management, not higher taxation,” is not registered as a political action committee.

But a few factors could complicate that complaint. One is that the inaccurate number assigned to the proposed tax levy was pulled directly from the bond committee’s own website.

“The proposal under consideration would cost Eagle Point School District landowners an additional $1 per $1,000 of assessed value for a total combined levy rate of $2.69/$1,000,” the mailer said, a direct quote from the main page of the bond website.

Allen Barber, human resources director for the school district and a member of the bond committee, said he hadn’t known that the website published that levy rate. The actual estimated levy rate associated with the bond is 89 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

“I have no idea why that’s there,” he said. “I think it’s left over from when it was still a proposal.”

The $400 figure is based on an assumption of a $400,000 assessed property value, which district officials said is far above the Eagle Point average.

According to the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service, the median sales price of a house in Eagle Point last month was $285,000. Assessed value is generally much less than the sale price.

The average assessed value of property in Eagle Point a year ago was $145,000, Barber said, which would incur a tax increase of $129.05 per year.

“The entire committee is focused and dedicated on getting right information out there,” Lundberg said.

Debra Royal, public information officer for the Secretary of State’s Office, said another factor could potentially hinder any penalty being brought — that the district doesn’t know who sent the mailer out.

“If the group hasn’t registered, then there’s no way for us to find them,” she said, adding that the state relies on complainants to provide that information.

Even if the identity of the group behind the mailers becomes known, Royal said she’s certain the complaint will not be processed before the election.

“As you can imagine, we have a lot of complaints right now,” she said.

The 31-year bond would pay for complete renovation of White City Elementary School, improvements at Eagle Point High School and Shady Cove School, and upgrades to security systems district-wide, among other projects.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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