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Washington County schools may get a little more help during the next two years from Gain Share funds.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey and Washington County Commission Chair Andy Duyck hold a news conference outdoors at the Hillsboro Civic Center to discuss a proposal to funnel $10 million in Gain Share funds to public schools.

Gain Share reimburses local jurisdictions a portion of state income taxes generated by, in Washington County’s case, economic development at Intel and Genentech through the Strategic Investment Program.

Washington County Commission Chairman Andy Duyck and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey on June 6 proposed allocating $10 million in Gain Share funds to Washington County schools during the next biennium.

The announcement came several days after an open letter from school board members around the county to state legislators and county and city officials asking that 40 percent of Gain Share funds be allocated to education.

“There is money to go around, both at the state and local level,” read the letter, which was published in the June 7 issue of the Hillsboro Tribune.

“Washington County schools are the fastest growing (in the state),” Duyck told a small crowd of reporters and city and county officials gathered at the Hillsboro Civic Center last week. “We believe schools deserve additional money.”

Willey said he and county officials had been working with state legislators to make sure schools get a portion of the Gain Share funds.

“Education is in the center of the bullseye,” Willey said.

Ten million dollars is about 20 percent of anticipated Gain Share funds that will come to local jurisdictions in the next biennium.

A ‘symbolic step’

State Reps. Joe Gallegos and Ben Unger both support a 40 percent allocation of Gain Share funds to schools, but were happy with the “symbolic step” Duyck and Willey announced.

“It’s a significant step in the right direction,” Unger said. “But I don’t think it’s enough.”

Unger supports “making schools a permanent part of the (Gain Share distribution) formula.” He said guaranteeing funds for school districts is a “simple change, but a fundamental need if Gain Share is going to serve the community.”

In a statement released after the June 6 announcement, Gallegos appeared unconvinced.

“Ten million dollars spread throughout the county over the next two years is not enough ... Even at this amount, Hillsboro School District will continue to face challenges in maintaining current staffing levels.”

Duyck acknowledged that $10 million won’t solve the funding shortage in the county’s schools.

“Will we fill the gap? No, but we will certainly will be part of the solution,” he said.

The funds would be funneled through Northwest Regional Education Service District and be dispersed from there, Duyck said. NWRESD provides special education, instructional and technology support services to school districts in four counties.

Although details about how funds would be dispersed were not addressed, 38 percent of the funds would come from the city of Hillsboro and 62 percent from the county.

When asked which school districts would benefit, Willey said, “There’s the devil in the details.”

Hillsboro School District officials responded positively to the proposal, saying any financial help in tough times is welcome. The district is currently expected to lay off 28 teachers next school year and cut five days of school.

“At a time when our district continues to make reductions, any additional funding is welcome and would be spent in the most responsible way possible for students, staff, and the community,” said district spokeswoman Beth Graser.

Bigger questions loom

A bigger question, however, is whether Oregon will continue sending 50 percent of the state income tax dollars back to local governments, as the Gain Share program currently requires. Unger said the amount is growing much faster than legislators realized it would when they created the program in 2007.

According to Unger, the original $4 million estimate grew to a $12 million payment to Washington County governments this year. It is expected to exceed $50 million next year, primarily because of the large number of good paying jobs created by Intel in Hillsboro.

“That’s a lot more than anyone expected,” said Unger, who supports restricting the jobs that qualify for the program.

But Duyck said the state is still receiving a windfall in the form of the 50 percent of additional income tax dollars it is keeping. That money would not be there without local governments foregoing property tax increases under the Strategic Investment Program, one of the state’s most effective economic development tools.

“The state made a promise to share their gains; that’s how the program got its name. We can discuss the who gets what portion of it, but the Oregon Legislature needs to keep its promise,” Duyck said.

And, he explained, the Legislature can always use the 50 percent of the additional income taxes it keeps to increase funding to the schools.

Legislation that could make changes in the way the funding is distributed — Senate Bill 314 — is currently sitting in the Oregon Senate’s Finance and Revenue Committee. No hearings have been held on SB 314 since March 13.

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