Vote 'yes' in Mayfor BeavertonSchool District'slevy to hire teachers
In May, the Beaverton School District will ask voters to OK a $165 million, five-year levy to pay for teaching positions. We support a "yes" vote on the May 15 ballot.
Even if you're no fan of higher property taxes, this is a "devil you know" situation. That's because the district's last five-year levy is about to expire, and the proposed one would replace it. The last levy paid for an estimated 300 teaching positions throughout this vast district. So would the proposed levy. The last levy would cost property owners about as much as the expiring one.
Meet the new levy. Same as the old levy.
If you think hiring extra teachers is good — and we do — then you should consider a "yes" vote. In the 2017-18 school year, the levy-funded positions including 158 at elementary schools, 53 at middle schools, 70 at high schools and 18 at option schools.
More teachers equals smaller class sizes. That's an intrinsic good.
The the new levy also avoids sticker shock, in that it's about what property owners are paying now. The price tag is $1.25 per $1,000 assessed property value. For homes with the median assessed value of $238,000 (median, meaning half of homes in the district are worth more and half are worth less) would continue to pay about $300 per year.
How much would the levy actually raise? It's good to remind readers that, in Oregon, we pay for construction and property with bonds, and for programs and personnel with levies. Bonds raise a specific amount of money. Levies don't. That's because they are based on the cost-per-thousand of assessed value, which fluctuates — usually upward, although that wasn't true during the Great Recession.
It's estimated that the levy, if successful, would generate $31 million in 2018-19, climbing steadily to $35 million by 2022-23.
Let's be clear: The need for this kind of local option levy comes about because Oregon does not fully fund public education. This was a decision made by voters in the 1990s, during a series of tax-backlash ballot measures. Before the 1990s, public schools were primarily funded by local property taxes. After Ballot Measures 5 and 50, public schools were primarily funded through the state Legislature. Yet state coffers didn't grow proportionately to take on this burden.
An Oregon Department of Education model put the cost a fully funding schools at $9.97 billion for 2017-19 biennium. That's about $2 billion more than the funding required to maintain "current service levels" — or simply to keep up with inflation.
Would we back fully funding public schools? Yes. Is that going to happen? Well, it hasn't happened since the tax shifts of the 1990s, so we're not holding our collective breaths.
Until it does, local option levies are a mechanism by which each district can address its needs.
Beaverton — the third largest school district in the state — has a need for more teachers and smaller classrooms.
The old levy addressed that. So would the new one.
We recommend a "yes" vote.