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North Marion seeks levy to supplement budget

North Marion School District is looking to supplement its budget by sending a local option levy to the polls in November.

The four-year supplemental operating levy on the Nov. 5 ballot is meant to help the budget, generating an estimated $583,335 in 2014-15, increasing each year based on raised property values. In its final year of 2017-18, the school district would receive an estimated $619,040 through the local option levy.

The district also qualifies for a State Equalization Grant, which would match 53 percent of the proceeds of the levy, coming out to an estimated $309,168 in 2014-15.

“We’re reinvesting into the district after years of underfunding from the state,” explained Superintendent Boyd Keyser. “We’ve been cutting and doing without certain maintenance projects and we haven’t had a way to restore those things.”

The levy would be at the assigned rate of 74 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Keyser pointed out that the district currently has one of the lowest permanent tax rates in the state.

“If we add 74 cents that’s still lower than most districts in Yamhill, Marion, Polk and Clackamas counties,” Keyser said.

If passed, the levy would come on the heels of a 20-year bond that expires in 2015, which was used to build North Marion Primary School.

“We have fewer staff now than we have had in the last eight years and we have the most students that we’ve ever had,” said board director James Moore, who is part of the political action committee. “If we wait for the state with high expectations (for funding) then that might also be a bad formula. The levy is one opportunity for the general public to stand up and say, ‘We believe in our students and our teachers.’ This money won’t go in other places; that comes directly to our school district.”

So where would the bond money go? The priority would likely be bringing staffing positions back, as well as updating curriculum materials. Other things being considered are programs, such as athletics and an outdoor school, and measures to increase safety and security on the campus. Many of these items are laid out in a prioritization list put together by administrators and staff in the spring. These mostly consist of reductions that have taken place over the last six years, according to Keyser.

“Even if we were to see more revenues coming in from the state, we would still need an extra $2 million to restore all those things,” he said.

Additionally, the district is trying to maintain its recently-implemented iPad program in the fifth grade. That program provides an iPad for all fifth-graders, who hold on to them as they proceed into middle school. This year marks the first year that all freshmen at the high school are receiving laptops to use throughout their high school careers.

“Technology in the classroom is important but those decisions come with a cost,” Keyser said.

Looking ahead, Keyser said, there are concerns regarding maintenance, from ventilation to security to outdated technology capabilities at the 60-year-old high school.

Keyser said there could be a move in a few years to go to voters again, this time targeting facilities projects. That might also include expanding the North Marion campus.

“There really aren’t other places for the community to gather, and with all the youth league programs we do, our campus is being used constantly,” Keyser said about creating a community-friendly venue.

“Also, we’ve seen a slight increase in enrollment every year.”

But the local political action committee is planning on actively promoting this November’s levy, with door-to-door visits, literature and community forums in Hubbard, Aurora and Donald planned for mid- to late October.

“We as a board thought there was room to grow, and we felt our patrons, if they’re educated, would know it was needed,” Moore said. “It’s an important time to invest in our schools.”