April, 2011

Measure 5-214 S.O.S. (Save Our Schools)

Guest Commentary by Ed Serra

At their January 24, 2011 meeting, the Board of Directors for the Clatskanie School District voted to take an important question to the voters on May 17.

This question, in the form of a ballot measure, is the consideration of a local option levy, which if approved, would add to the resources the district has to serve students.

When Measure 5 was enacted, the State placed a limit of $5/1,000 of Real Market Value that a local district could collect in education taxes.  Measure 5 included a provision allowing districts to tax any gap existing between this upper limit and its permanent education rate.  In Clatskanie, the permanent education rate is $4.76/1,000 of Assessed Value.  Therefore, we are allowed to run a Local Option Levy to tax the gap between our permanent education rate and $5/1,000 of Real Market Value.

For example, if the levy passes, a Clatskanie home with a Real Market Value of $220,000 and an assessed value of $160,000 would be assessed about $338.00 per year in local taxes starting in 2011. That would be approximately $28.00 per month.

To find out what the estimated cost would be to you, there is a link on the Clatskanie SD webpage that will guide you in figuring your estimated cost. Please remember, if this levy should pass, the money would go directly to the school district.

As you know, the State of Oregon has been making major reductions in funding for K-12 public education, as well as other state-funded services. This has impacted all school districts and resulted in a number of program, service, and staffing level reductions. Last year the state funded education at $5.8 billion and is expected to fund next year at $5.7 billion. Predictions indicate that the shortfall will be even greater for the next 2-3 bienniums.

For the Clatskanie School District, this equates to an $830,000 shortfall for the 2011-12 school year and even greater in the years following. To put that into perspective, last year the district had a deficit of $560,000 which led to the reduction of programs, a 20% cut in total operating (non-personnel) costs, and the loss of 5.0 teachers and 1.5 classified positions. We are now looking at an even greater shortfall than what we had last year.

Without additional revenues, the district is facing the reduction of an additional 6.5 teachers, 4-6 support staff positions, the elimination of extracurricular funds to support athletics, elimination of evening custodians and the groundskeeper. There will be major cuts in high school programs, reduction in technology services, reductions in operating costs of 10-15%, and increased class sizes throughout the district and the possibility of closing the Community Education Center which currently houses the school district office as well as four other community and county programs.

We understand that there are many who are dealing with fiscal challenges in their work or personal lives and asking you to increase your taxes is difficult. The taxes collected from the levy would be able to maintain the level of services we currently offer for the 2011-12 school year and save funds for the following year.  Without this revenue, future funding shortfalls by the State could leave the District unable to provide local education for Clatskanie in the near future. As many of you are aware, the school district is the second largest employer in the community.  The future of the Clatskanie School District as well as the future of the community of Clatskanie is in the hands of the voters.

A person can think of reasons why one should or should not support the concept of a levy. Clearly, there are a number of challenges with the economy at all levels and as it impacts state revenues and public school funding. In this environment, is it right to ask the local community to enhance local funding for schools? In this environment, is it right not to ask the community to enhance local funding for schools? Given the profound need for resources to serve students in our schools, the School Board felt it was their duty to bring this question to our community.

We appreciate and respect you, and we will do our best to serve students in our schools. Therefore I encourage the citizens of Clatskanie to support the school district by the passage of Measure 5-214.

If you have questions regarding the levy, please do not hesitate to contact me or my business manager, Janine Salisbury at 503-728-0587.

(Editor’s Note: Rather than The Chief staff editorializing on the two tax levies that will be on the May 17th ballots of voters in this newspaper’s area of coverage, we asked Clatskanie School District Superintendent Ed Serra to write about the Clatskanie School District local option levy – Measure 5-214 – this week. We have offered this space in our columns next week to Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson to write about Measure 5-210, a four year levy that will fund increased patrol deputies and law enforcement services. – DSH)

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