Schools chief says no to local levy

Extra taxes could have helped make up for funding crisis

North Clackamas School District Superintendent Tim Mills has recommended that the district not pursue a local option levy.

If the School Board approves a three- to five-year levy and it became a successful ballot measure, the cost to homeowners would be between 99 cents and $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The short-term $3 million to $4 million property tax could be used annually for school operating expenses for purposes voters approve, including hiring of teachers to reduce class sizes, increasing the number of school days, purchasing new textbooks to address more challenging standards, adding classroom technology or education programs such as more advanced placement courses.

With each million dollars annually, the school district could fund 15 teachers or 2.5 school days, for example.

Analysis of the issue included more than 30 community meetings, an online survey and a scientific telephone poll, as well as financial analysis of the district property assessments.

'The prevailing message we heard was that due to the economic downturn, citizens are less likely to support increased property taxes because so many families are struggling,' Mills told the School Board early this month. 'I know many of our own employees are among those facing hard times.'

Along with closing three elementary schools at the end of the last school year, the district has had to lay off more than 300 employees in the last three years, most of them teachers.

Mills said the district is encouraged that the North Clackamas Education Foundation has increased efforts to support the district. The foundation has a number of grants.

District leaders are working with employee associations on problem-solving and developing strategies to take the pressure off school employees.