With turnout dipping below 15% in some parts of the state, school administrators can be grateful that the Oregonians who did cast ballots were largely supporters of public education.
School bonds and levies were passing across Oregon in the May election Wednesday morning.
Voters Back Levies To Expand, Maintain School Services
All three of the local property tax levies on the ballot to help pay for school teachers and other instruction costs were passing by wide margins at the time of publication.
In Lake Oswego, more than 57% of voters said “yes” to a five-year renewal of their local property tax. District officials say the levy adds a handful of mental health counselors in elementary and secondary schools, as well as specialists in reading as well as in science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM).
A school levy was also passing in the Eugene 4J school district, where administrators say it’s responsible for maintaining the equivalent of 161 teaching positions, or about five weeks of school. Eugene voters were backing the renewed levy with 71% of the vote.
A levy was also passing in the nearby district of Crow-Applegate-Lorane, where administrators say without the approval of the levy, the district would’ve been facing a budget cut of $200,000.
Election Funds School Construction In Rural Districts
Seven out of eight bonds for school construction were passing Wednesday, many by large majorities. Oregon’s larger districts, like Portland, Beaverton and Salem-Keizer have passed bonds in recent years and are already carrying out significant construction efforts to replace or update their aging buildings.
The construction bonds passing in May 2019 are mostly in small rural school districts. The small Umatilla County district of Stanfield won the approval of a $14 million bond, after three years of planning. It’ll total $18 million of construction money, thanks to a $4 million match from the state. Stanfield’s construction plans focus on replacing modular buildings, improving safety with secure vestibules at building entrances, and removing asbestos and lead pipes, according to the district.
Bonds passing elsewhere, such as in Dayton, would similarly focus on improving security features and upgrading basic features of the school buildings, including roofs, floors and electrical and heating systems. Like in Stanfield, Dayton’s schools will benefit from state funds — $4 million of state matching funds, and $2.5 million to pay for seismic upgrades.
Only one district saw its school tax measure defeated. With a 61% “no” vote, the Fern Ridge School District in Lane County saw its bond measure rejected, shelving district plans to develop property into playing and sports fields, including a new track and grandstand.
The Fern Ridge bond would have continued an existing tax rate under a previous bond voters approved in 2014.
The strong results for schools come just days after Oregon legislators approved a business tax projected to invest $1 billion per year in the state’s public schools. Opponents are already organizing to put that tax to voters across the state.
Election results won’t be officially confirmed for several weeks.