Amid dissent, school board approves Salem urban renewal

The Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday approved a request from the city of Salem to support tax exemptions for a downtown urban renewal project.

M Parkside Living, LLC, had received unanimous approval from the Salem City Council for The Court Yard Apartments, which would consist of a 42,866-square-foot apartment building with 40 units, a 2,359-square-foot commercial building, and 40 parking spaces.

For the project to be exempt from property taxes from other taxing districts, the governing bodies of taxing districts representing at least 51 percent of the combined tax rate must approve the exemption.

The matter was on the board’s February 12 agenda, but with director Chuck Lee absent but communicating by telephone, a technical difficulty prevented him from voting. The item failed by a tie vote, and director Jim Green said he would bring the matter up at the next meeting.

After City Manager Steve Powers of Salem spoke to the board Tuesday, noting that the tax impact would be on the urban renewal district only, not the school district, Green moved for board approval of the tax exemptions.

The board approved his motion 5-2, with Paul Kyllo and Jesse Lippold opposed. Kyllo argued against partnering with a council that had rejected a proposed third bridge in Salem. Lippold said the move would amount to giving money to a group that already could afford the project.

In other business, the board voted to acquire land owned by St. Edward Catholic Church and adjacent to McNary High School, to add various facilities to accommodate an anticipated enrollment of 2,200 students. After initial opposition from the church and considerable negotiating, the board agreed to pay $2,262,400 for the land.

The board also approved six grants, the largest $907,108 in federal programs through the Oregon Department of Education, for various programs. Also from ODE are $237,814 for behavioral learning, $82,107 for excess costs of services to students who have disabilities, $34,300 for a teacher mentor program, and $13,187 to support statewide training for students with disabilities.

The remaining grant, $2,800 from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund, will fund a three-week summer program, called People of the Light, for American Indian and Alaska native students.

Four of the personnel actions approved by the board involve the McNary attendance area. The board approved temporary full-time status for Bullington Stort at McNary and accepted the resignations of Erin Ellison and Jesse Ellison from Claggett Creek Middle School and Christopher Roach from Weddle Elementary School.