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Election | local | Education

Voters Say 'No' To School Funding

Whether it was in central Oregon, the south coast, or the suburbs of Beaverton, when voters were asked to hike property taxes to pay for schools this fall, they all had the same answer: “no.”

Beaverton schools

Michael Clapp / OPB

Voters in Myrtle Point rejected a construction bond measure by 18 percentage points. In Culver, the vote wasn’t even that close.

Beaverton voters have a history of supporting school measures. But not this time around. Karen Cunningham helped run the campaign to pass a $14 million dollar operating levy. She still believes Beaverton voters value their schools, even though the levy measure was defeated:.

“But these are extraordinarily tough economic times and extremely challenging for a lot of our families, and for Beaverton-area voters. And I think ultimately those difficult financial times are what caused the vote to go the way it did,” Cunningham said.

The measure had no organized opposition. After Cunningham learned that the other two school funding measures on the ballot elsewhere in the state also failed — by even larger margins — she affirmed her assessment: that voters simply couldn’t afford the tax increases.

Beaverton school board members and administrators now face a budget hole between 24 and 37 million dollars. Advocates say the 14 million dollars from the levy would’ve protected about 180 full-time teaching positions. Jeff Rose is in his first year as Beaverton’s superintendent.

He says the coming reductions will be difficult.

“The low-hanging fruit is gone, in many ways. We’ve done a lot of kind of reductions of what some may consider, ‘Well, that’s reducing the fat.’ And clearly, we’re getting into – it sounds graphic, but a meat-and-bone conversation,” Rose said.

Rose says budget-cutting options will be vetted through a lengthy community process. He expects an added emphasis on private fundraising. But he was quick to predict that such donations won’t come close to the millions necessary to close the anticipated budget gap.