Superintendent, Oregon City Schools
The Oregon City Schools continue to operate in a lean manner. We reflect the values of our community and offer a good education at a good value. Like you, we feel challenges of these tough economic times and are doing what it takes to enact cuts and cost saving measures while continuing to see deep and, and in some cases, permanent losses in revenue.
In fact, the district has reduced operating expenses to such a level that our district is currently spending fewer dollars then we did in 2006 – more than four years ago. In addition, we are doing this while seeing significant losses in state and local revenue.
The economic times are difficult and the ramifications of our losses in funding continue at an unprecedented pace. In 2005, the state legislature passed House Bill 66 (HB 66) which was an overhaul of Ohio’s tax code. This new legislation eliminated the corporate franchise tax and phased out the tangible personal property tax. The commercial activity tax (CAT) was introduced with the intent of replacing this revenue, however, tangible personal property taxes were a locally levied tax going directly to the schools. This revenue provided the only growth factor in school funding. The CAT tax goes directly to Columbus and is being redistributed back to all school districts through legislative activities. Due to the phase-out of the tangible personal property tax for schools our district will see an overall permanent loss of approximately 25 percent of the district’s budget. This is in addition to the loss of revenue due to an estimated 10 percent decline in home valuation.
Recently, the BP-Husky Refinery announced a $400 million expansion in their facilities. While this is good economic news for the City of Oregon and northwest Ohio in bringing jobs to the region, the schools will not directly benefit from the project due to HB 66. In the past (prior to HB 66), a project of this magnitude would have brought in millions of dollars of tax revenue directly to Oregon Schools. The net result of this “tax reform” is that the financial burden for public schools continues to be shifted from business and industry to the homeowner.
Already this school year we have cut approximately $3.5 million from the budget to keep costs low. These cuts have helped offset the loss in revenue that we are facing and are only now beginning to be felt within the classroom. They include some of the following: an elimination of 32 teaching positions; an increase in average class size (student-to-teacher ratio) district wide from 18:1 to 23:1 this year, and; a significant reduction in programming and services at every level.
These losses are real and will have far reaching affects into how we continue to educate students in the Oregon Schools. We will continue to work with our locally elected state officials and educate them on the negative impact HB 66 has had on school funding. In the meantime, we will continue to seek and implement cost savings in our operations and communicate those to you.
Like you, I am proud of our Oregon Schools. I continue to have high expectations for the academic achievement of our students while making sure that our schools offer a good value to our community. We will continue to work hard to reflect the strong values of our community and maintain the long tradition of excellence in our schools. Thank you for the continued support that you provide our students and our schools.