Oregon school board President P.J. Kapfhammer is hopeful that voters will renew a 2-mill permanent improvement levy on the May 7 ballot.
Kapfhammer has been making the rounds seeking support for the levy, most recently at Oregon City Council, which passed a resolution in favor of its renewal.
The levy, initially passed in 1967, has been renewed every five years, he said.
“It’s not a new tax, but a renewal,” Kapfhammer emphasized.
Revenue from the levy can only be used for specific purposes, such as for building operations and repairs, equipping and furnishing schools, maintaining and purchasing buses, safety, and computers. It is not for operating costs, such as salaries.
“We have invested that money and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for the taxpayer,” said Kapfhammer. It’s an investment tool we’ve used very wisely.”
Dennis Walendzak, co-chairman of the levy campaign, said one of the cost saving projects funded by the revenue is the extension of a natural gas line from Eisenhower Middle School to Jerusalem Elementary School, which has saved the district over $40,000.
The district also used the revenue to put in a primary electrical grid to Eisenhower, Fassett and Clay, said Walendzak.
“The district has been able to reduce its electrical usage in excess of $200,000 on an annual basis,” said Walendzak.
Some expenses cannot be avoided, he said, such as complying with an unfunded state mandate for computerized testing for all standardized assessments in the 2014-2015 school year.
“Current capacity at the high school would not allow the district to achieve that mandate from the state. So they are looking at doing some technology upgrades with the permanent improvement levy, and improving some safety features at the schools to make school environments more secure. They do have a plan of where they feel these monies will be directed,” said Walendzak.
If the levy is not renewed, he added, expenditures will still have to be made.
“They will have to come out of the operational expenditures of the district,” he said.
Voters previously passed the levy on Nov. 4, 2008. It will expire at the end of this year.
The levy costs the owner of a $100,000 house $61 annually, and generates about $1.1 million revenue annually, said Kapfhammer.
“It could even cost less for many taxpayers because of a drop in property values,” he said.
“If the levy is not renewed, we have one more shot at it in November. If it’s not renewed by the end of this year, it will go away forever,” said Kapfhammer. “On top of that, we’d lose over $100,000 from the state, which is based on the levy. If the district introduces a new permanent improvement levy, it will be based on new millage, not millage from 1967. And it would cost taxpayers more and be a new tax. This levy has to pass.”