The Ashland School Board voted Monday to levy a tax on new construction in the district beginning July 1.

The Ashland School Board voted Monday to levy a tax on new construction in the district beginning July 1.

"I think the issue is that schools are hurting," board member Ruth Alexander said. "We have leaking roofs and we need the money to take care of it."

The board voted 5-0 to take advantage of a 2007 Oregon law that allows districts to tax new construction in order to help pay for building and maintenance of school facilities.

Jill Turner, the district's business manager, estimates the construction excise tax will bring in between $100,000 and $350,000 per year.

"In the booming years, maybe up to $350,000 a year, and in a slow year, like this one, maybe about $100,000," she said.

The board opted to enact the highest tax possible under the 2007 law. The tax will be $1 per square foot on residential construction and 50 cents per square foot on non-residential construction, according to board documents.

The fees for nonresidential construction cannot exceed $25,000 per building permit or $25,000 per structure, whichever is less, according to the documents.

At a November board meeting, a few community members asked the board to wait to enact the tax until the economy has recovered from the recession.

"They felt like, while the tax may be fair and justified, in this economy it might not be the best thing to do to construction, and I think there's some merit to that," School Board Chairman Keith Massie said last week.

Massie urged the board to wait until July to implement the tax, to give builders time to plan for the new expense.

"I think that gives notice," he said. "We're still being sensitive to the construction industry."

The district could have decided to levy the tax as early as March 1.

Although she voted to approve the July start date, board member Carol Davis, an architect, said she didn't see the point of postponing the tax.

"We're only talking a few months, and the economy's starting to recover again," she said. "I think the school district needs the money. If we delay an opportunity that we have for funding all the needs facility-wise that we have for the district, is that in our best interest?"

The district can only use the tax revenues to pay for new construction or maintenance projects, Turner said. It is a one-time tax, levied when the building permit is issued.

Some building permits, such as those taken out to construct low-income housing, government facilities or houses of worship will be exempt from the tax, she added.

The city and county building departments will collect the tax for the district, and keep a 4 percent administrative fee.

Central Point School District is the only other district in the county to have levied the tax, according to Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

"But there's many in the county that are considering doing this," she said.

The tax may allow the district to avoid asking for funding for school construction projects through bond measures, as it has done in the past, Di Chiro said.

"It is an opportunity for us to start building a fund up that can be there to support the needs of the district, and perhaps, in the future, mitigate the need for the district to ask for money in bonds," she said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.