Board readies pitch for levy renewal drive

Request to continue funds on May 7 ballot


Oregon City Schools officials are ramping up their case for renewal of the district’s permanent improvement levy, which goes to the voters on May 7.

The 2-mill, five-year tax has been collected since 1968 and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $61 annually. It will appear on the ballot as Issue 2.

The $1.15 million it generates each year covers a variety of school expenses from major building repairs and upgrades, technology, buses, and textbooks. Funds generated by the tax cannot be used for salaries.

Officials say its funding is vital for the district to maintain its level of services.

Last week, Superintendent Mike Zalar and his administrators gave the Board of Education an advance look at the arguments they’ll present.

Business Manager Dean Sandwisch gave a presentation that, as Mr. Zalar said, “shows where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going."

Mr. Sandwisch said permanent-improvement spending on lighting and energy-efficiency upgrades were resulting in big savings. According to his figures, the district’s electricity cost was cut from $510,190.14 in the 2009-10 school year to $311,665.18 in 2011-12.

The reduction at Clay High School was even more dramatic, he said. Over the same period, the cost went from $232,338.06 to $60,790.52.

Using permanent-improvement money, the district paid $304,201 this year to extend a natural gas line from Eisenhower Middle School to Jerusalem Elementary School. Jerusalem now can switch to natural gas from fuel oil and propane, saving more than $40,000.

Mr. Sandwisch said permanent-improvement funds covered the new entrance at Fassett Middle School and district safety upgrades, including security cameras and new entrance doors.

Other improvements include gym renovations at Fassett and Eisenhower, the auditorium renovation at Fassett, Clay’s multihandicapped classroom renovation, along with tennis, track, and stadium projects there, and playground and playing field improvements at Coy Elementary.

Mr. Sandwisch said building and energy-efficiency upgrades would continue with the renewal.

Hal Gregory, chief of educational services, said permanent-improvement funds paid for the electronic devices to which districts statewide have been switching. Oregon, he said, was “not at the level we need to be.”

Board President P.J. Kapfhammer said, “You cannot go without buying textboooks.”

— Carl Ryan