The Oregon City Schools district has a 5.9-mill five-year emergency operating levy on Tuesday’s ballot.
The district faces a $2 million deficit for the 2011-2012 school year. If passed, the levy is expected to bring in $3.4 million annually.
In the last three years, the school board has cut $8 million from the operating budget.
If the levy does not pass, the school board will reduce the operating budget by about $2 million for the 2011 – 2012 school year by cutting 20 additional teaching and staff positions, eliminating the Career & Tech program, reducing kindergarten from all day every day to all day every other day, increasing athletic participation fees, reducing cleaning services to buildings, eliminating or significantly reducing bus service for all high school students, and implementing a process to close an elementary school and/or reconfigure the district.
If the levy passes, the district would be in good shape financially for the next five years, according to its five year forecast.
“We understand these are tough economic times for everybody,” Superintendent Mike Zalar told The Press last week. “We tightened our belt as a school district, and we’ve made millions in operational cuts.”
In addition, the school board asked staff to make wage and benefit concessions, he said.
“And yet, if we want to maintain the quality schools that we have, we’re going to need people to support this levy,” he said.
Zalar held several public information meetings on the proposed levy throughout the district in the last several weeks.
“I find support for the schools,” he said. “The biggest thing we have working against us is the current economic climate. That’s our biggest challenge. That’s something we have no control over. The reality is that we’ve made significant reductions in our operating budget, but at the same time, if we don’t receive some additional revenue, we’re going to be forced to cut even further, and that’s going to impact the quality of our programs and services that we offer to kids in the community.”
Zalar said one of the biggest misconceptions held by the community about the school district is that teachers and staff are overpaid.
“That’s where a lot of the questions come from. I would maintain that all of our teachers and staff are compensated adequately, and at competitive levels, with respect to the surrounding school districts in our region,” he said.
The proposed levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $182 annually.
School officials blame House Bill 66 for much of the district’s financial problems. House Bill 66 phased out tangible personal property taxes for businesses and created budgetary shortfalls for several school districts.
The district had a 5.9-mill emergency levy on the August, 2009 ballot, but it was defeated by a vote of 3,605 to 1,119.