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Beaverton schools ask voters to support local option levy

The Beaverton School District will ask voters in November to support a five-year local option levy that will help preserve academic programs, retain teachers and protect class sizes.

The School Board on Monday night voted unanimously to place a levy proposal on the ballot that would cost property owners $1 per $1,000 of assessed value for five years, beginning in 2012. The levy could raise between $12 million and $16 million per year.

While the levy could generate between $60 million and $80 million for Beaverton schools over five years, it will not completely protect the district from having to continue to make difficult cuts in the future.

'While this levy has the ability of supporting us, it is not solving a systemic problem we have here in this state,' said Superintendent Jeff Rose. 'Unless there is a dramatic change at the state level for funding public education, we will continue to see dramatic changes throughout our system.'

In the last four years, Beaverton schools have been forced to carve $105 million from their budgets. And, the district is projecting a funding shortfall of between $24 million and $37 million for the 2012-13 school year - the equivalent loss of 300 to 462 teachers or 24 to 37 school days.

The certainty of more drastic cuts for the next several years makes gaining voter support for the levy 'really critical,' said Board member Karen Cunningham.

While there was no question that the board would place a local option levy on the Nov. 8 ballot, district leaders hoped they would be able to levy closer to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.

'I regret we can't ask for more,' said Board member Mary VanderWeele.

Given the economic pain the community has been feeling and public polling that showed Beaverton voters would be less likely to support any levy above $1 per $1,000 of assessed value of their property, she and others on the board approved the proposed levy amount.

'This is really a fraction of what our students need and deserve,' VanderWeele said.

Board Vice Chairwoman Lisa Shultz agreed, adding that though this was not the right time to ask voters for more, the proposed levy represents 'a good amount we think will be successful.'

'It's a valuable investment our community can make in our kids,' Cunningham said.