Education remains spending priority for many voters
Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Despite soaring inflation that has crimped Oregonians’ budgets, voters on seven out of 10 education funding requests appear to have looked in their pockets and found a way to keep supporting students.
Every school district and community college on ballots Tuesday had won a bond election in the past 20 years and some had gone to voters as recently as five years ago. As of Wednesday morning, all but one county with a school funding question had counted at least two-thirds of their ballots. Yamhill had counted 41%. Final results could change, but the tilt of the school support votes was pretty clear.
The Beaverton School District passed a whopping $723 million bond in May this year, and still more than 70% of voters said yes to a levy of $1.25 per $1,000. The five-year levy renewal will keep the tax rate the same while paying for more than 280 teachers.
Portland Community College, which passed a bond in 2017, had the biggest ask on ballots. Nearly 60% of voters from five counties collectively approved the $450 million bond to upgrade facilities, technology and job training opportunities.
Bend-La Pine Schools passed a $268 million bond in 2017 and built a new high school. Nearly 60% of voters said yes again this year to a $250 million bond for safety and modernization work and to renovate Bend Senior High School.
In 2016, the Umatilla School District passed a bond on its third try in 10 years. It apparently has gotten the hang of it, because on Tuesday roughly 53% of voters said yes to a $45.2 million bond with a $4 million OSCIM grant to help it prepare for an expected enrollment boom in the growing community.
The school districts of Forest Grove with 54% approval and David Douglas with 58% also appear to have passed bonds that included OSCIM matching funds, and Philomath passed a levy renewal with 72% approval.
Of the school districts on ballots, the Sheridan School District has gone the longest since passing a bond, last successful in 2003. About 54% of voters said this won’t be the year, even with an OSCIM grant that would have added $4 million to a $16 million bond.
The Parkrose School District, which last passed a bond in 2011, tried to pass a levy to shore up an expected $3.2 million budget shortfall in 2023-24. About 55% of voters said no.
The Rogue River School District, which passed a $3.4 million bond in 2017 in tax-averse Jackson County, was told no this time by about 57% of voters. Its $4 million OSCIM grant would have doubled its $4 million bond.
School districts mostly use bonds for big facility work they can’t afford in their budgets. Levies typically go toward additional learning-related expenses, such as more teachers.