Public feedback at a community forum for the Oregon City Schools District held earlier this month showed some support for putting an operating levy on the November ballot so long as there are also more budget cuts.
School officials held the forum to help the school board decide on whether there was support to put another levy on the ballot this fall, or to make more cuts.
The school board has already made $6.9 million in budget cuts in the last few years. “During the last three years, we cut approximately 20 percent from the budget,” said Diane Karoly, a member of the school board. “There really isn’t too much more that we can cut. It’s going to be tough.”
In fact, the board is bracing for more bad news, including less funding from the state, said Karoly.
Last year, voters defeated a 5.95-mill emergency operating levy by 3,605 to 1,119, despite deep spending cuts.
Without an operating levy this November, the district will have to make $2 million more in budget cuts.
“This board is committed to stabilizing the budget. There’s going to be some hard calls coming up. But this board is determined,” said Karoly.
There were three options the board wanted the public to consider at the forum:
• continue to make cuts and move to state minimum standards in education and do not seek additional tax revenue;
• put a levy on the ballot and continue to make reductions that improve district efficiencies while maintaining the majority of educational programs and services currently in place;
• put a levy on the ballot that will make up the revenue loss from House Bill 66 and other economic factors, and bring back some of the items cut in the last five years. House Bill 66 phased out tangible personal property taxes for businesses and created budgetary shortfalls for several school districts.
Many preferred the second option.
“I thought we had a good group there,” said Karoly. “It really went well.”
Dr. Mike Zalar, superintendent of the district, will make a recommendation to the board soon on which direction to go.
“We have to make some decisions within the next couple of months,” said Karoly.