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Published: Thursday, 8/6/2009

Oregon weighs options


A day after Oregon City Schools voters overwhelmingly rejected a levy to raise enough money to keep the district in the black through the 2011-2012 school year, the Oregon Board of Education discussed various alternatives to raise tax revenues.

Among options discussed yesterday was putting on the Nov. 3 ballot the same 5.95-mill, 10-year emergency levy, which would raise $3.6 million a year and cost the owner of $100,000 house an additional $182 a year. Another was to wait until next year to again ask voters to pass the levy, which because of the delay would be a one-year instead of two-year fix for the financially troubled district.

And another possibility for next year would be to go for a 9-mill emergency levy next year that would raise $5.4 million annually - and cost taxpayers even more.

Some board members said that, with a nearly $1 million deficit looming for the 2010-2011 school year, a decision needs to be made soon. The district's nearly $40 million budget is balanced for the upcoming school year after district officials in recent months have cut $3.5 million in expenses, including eliminating 32 teaching, 40 staff, and two administrative positions.

"There's probably going to be more sacrifices if we can't get the next levy through," said board member Richard Gabel.

Said board member Betty Carstensen: "I just think the sooner the better. We're not going to get any better just sitting back and waiting."

Oregon Superintendent Mike Zalar told board members he would like more time to discuss options with school staff and residents before making a recommendation. A board meeting will be scheduled before the Aug. 14 deadline for putting a levy on the Nov. 3 ballot, he said.

"It's a community issue," Mr. Zalar said. "When we make the decision - whatever the decision might be - we're going to be fully united."

On Tuesday, 3,605 voters cast ballots against the school district's tax request, while 1,119 residents voted for it, unofficial results show. Oregon has been especially hard-hit by House Bill 66, which is gradually eliminating personal tangible property taxes on the value of business equipment and inventory.

Tracy Hecklinger Bolander of Jerusalem Township, who has two children in elementary school, suggested the district should work more closely with economic development officials to bring in more businesses and revenues. Officials also should clear up the perception that Oregon teachers are overpaid, as well as make further cuts in maintenance and other areas, she said.

The school district did get a helping hand yesterday, when BP-Husky Refining in Oregon donated $200,000 to be used for bus fuel. Mr. Grabel said the district has asked several businesses for donations, but only BP-Husky has done so.

"That's a big help," he said. "That's a lot of money."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:


or 419-724-6087.

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