Earlier this week, Oregon residents approved over $940 million of general obligation bonds across the State, which was historically strong. Although results have yet to be certified, and therefore still preliminary, bonds approved by this election far outweigh the $852 million approved at the previous Oregon November special election in 2017. There are four scheduled election dates in Oregon each year: the 2nd Tuesday in March; the 3rd Tuesday in May; the 3rd Tuesday in September; and the 1st Tuesday after the first Monday in November. In November 2008, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 56, which repealed a law requiring more than 50% of a county’s registered voters to vote in bond measure elections held in May and November. As a result, the May election has become an important election to follow for new bond measures.
By election measure, approximately 59% of the bond issues were approved; however, 80% of the total requested par amount was approved by voters. Oregon typically sees more ballot measures during general elections, which are held in November, of even-numbered years. Accordingly, the current election falls flat versus the 2016 November general election, which approved a staggering $1.76 billion of new supply.
Election results were dominated by Salem-Keizer School District’s $620 million issue, which is estimated to cost taxpayers $1.24/$1,000 of assessed value. Overall, 90% of the total par-amount approved at the election was for school districts making capital improvements to existing facilities and constructing new facilities to accommodate enrollment growth. Furthermore, a significant marketing point for several of the school bond issues was the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching program, which is a grant program, offered by the Oregon Department of Education for the support of communities that pass general obligation bonds for school improvements.
Some elections were closer than others. Nestucca Valley School District’s general obligation bond was last reported as being favored by only 21 votes. If approved, the bond measure would fund the construction and renovation of school facilities. Also, tax-rate and the overall par amount requested did not seem to weigh into voter decisions as much as demographics and geography. For example, both measures in Douglas County failed. The election also approved a wide variety of projects ranging from park and recreation facilities and road improvements to addressing overcrowding and safety in schools.
Overall, this election will provide a significant source of additional supply to the Oregon bond market. The year has been off to a slow start, and while this election will help alleviate some of the supply concerns, we expect that issuance will be lower this year than last year.