Bonds and levies for 16 school districts showed up on ballots across Oregon. Early returns from Tuesday’s election showed strong support for local levies to pay for staff, while only half of districts with bonds on the ballot were successful in passing them.
The Lake Oswego, Sisters, and Hood River school districts asked voters to renew tax levies to help support teaching positions and electives. The local measures appeared to be passing by large margins Wednesday afternoon.
The Sherwood School District’s levy is new this year, and would raise $6.5 million each year for the next five years, according to district documents.
District officials put forward the levy to make up for a $7 million shortfall for next year’s budget.
“A $7 million budget reduction is equivalent to eliminating approximately 50 teacher and staff positions and 10 school days,” according to the district’s website for the levy. That measure also seems likely to pass, with 57% of voters approving it.
School districts with bonds on the ballot were less lucky, including two districts where bonds had previously failed in 2022.
Districts use bonds to support capital projects like rebuilding old schools, or adding safety features. Almost all of the 12 school district bonds up for a vote this year included renovation projects or other system improvements.
Some Oregon school districts secure state matching grants to help pay for these projects — including every district with a bond on this year’s ballot. But not all of the bonds appeared to be passing as of Wednesday afternoon, meaning they won’t have access to the state funds, either.
Both Roseburg in Douglas County, and Gervais in Marion County, placed bonds on the May 2023 ballot after unsuccessful bond campaigns in May 2022.
In 2022, the second time around, both districts asked for less money. Roseburg’s $75.5 million ask is about half of the $154 million put forward in the May 2022 bond package.
“The May 2023 proposed measure includes many of the same security, health and safety projects listed in last year’s proposal,” Roseburg school officials shared in an FAQ about the May 2023 bond, “However, several projects from last year are not included in this year’s proposal.”
But voters still appeared to be rejecting the bonds by double-digit margins.
Other school districts where voters appeared to be rejecting bond proposals include Colton, Rainier, Cove and Sheridan school districts.
But bonds appeared to be passing for six other school districts: St. Helens, Central Curry, Rogue River, Black Butte, Creswell and Mt. Angel.
One college bond, to support the Oregon Coast Community College, was originally set to appear on ballots this year but has been rescheduled for May 2024.