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Portland school board considers renewing local option based on strong community support

September 10, 2013
The Portland School Board on Monday explored renewing the current local option levy following the results of an annual survey.

Featured in PPS Pulse The recent public opinion research results showed public support to renew Portland's local option levy, following a new state law that would direct all new school levy funds to schools without portions going to urban renewal programs. When removed from urban renewal, the PPS Local Option levy would return an estimated additional $4.5 million per year to the school district.

Renewing the levy would not change the current tax rate for property owners. However, the revenue collected would go entirely to schools instead of a small portion also going to urban renewal.

The board discussion Monday was spurred by passage of HB-2632 during the 2013 Legislative Session.Brought by Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-SW Portland/Tigard) with additional support from Rep. Jules Bailey (D-SE Portland), the bill removes all future local option levies from the division of taxes under urban renewal.

HB 2632 only applies to local option levies approved after January 1, 2013 and first applies to the tax year 2014-15. The current 5-year local option levy was approved by voters in May 2011. If renewed in 2014, the tax rate would remain $1.99 per $1,000 of assessed value yet would stretch through 2019 rather than sunsetting in 2016 as it would now.

Local Option levies pay for school operations - such as teachers' salaries and curriculum. By contrast, school bonds pay for renovating and modernizing school buildings or other capital projects.

DHM Research reviewed survey results with the board that showed 79 percent support to renew Portland's local option levy, if there were no increase in rates and all funds went to schools and not urban renewal.

Co-chair Greg Belisle directed staff to return to the board with recommendations on whether the school board should refer local option levy renewal to voters. A vote could come as early as May 2014.

Additional DHM Research survey results showed:

  • Voters viewed the best indicator of the educational quality of a school district is "more students achieving high academic standards regardless of ethnicity or household income." (82 percent good/somewhat good)
  • Priorities for at least 90 percent of voters included: keeping class size from increasing; focusing on students in early grades; assuring that struggling students have access to the best teaching and strengthening career/technical options for students.
  • A majority of voters (70 percent) prefer not closing neighborhood schools versus closing schools to operate the district more efficiently.
  • A majority of respondents rated the district's educational performance as either positive or about the same as in the past (67 percent), yet 56 percent view PPS as moving in the wrong direction. DHM researchers told the school board that concerns about state funding are impacting Portlanders' view of the school district's direction.



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