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Levy supports our schools and our homes

Until 1990 Oregonians regarded the funding of public schools as a local responsibility. The voters of each school district decided how much to provide for K-12 education through property taxes, and its school board chose what to spend it on.Macpherson

As a result of Measure 5 from the 1990 general election, public school funding became a state responsibility. Local property taxes continue to go to the school district where they’re raised. However, because the school part of property taxes raised within the district offsets dollar-for-dollar the school support coming from the state, the effect is like spreading property taxes statewide.

Lake Oswego, with the capacity and willingness to support its schools, gets less from the state, ending up with the same base amount per student as other districts. Its residents expect high-quality education. This expectation does not match the funding level decided by the Legislature.

To keep its high-quality schools, Lake Oswego must supplement the base amount set by the state. This local funding comes from two sources.

In one source, donors to the Lake Oswego School District Foundation cover part of teacher salaries. The foundation now raises about $2 million annually.

The local option property tax levy provides the other source of local funding for Lake Oswego schools. This is a limited additional property tax that does not offset state school funding. As a result, the local option levy dollars stay right here in Lake Oswego.

When I represented Lake Oswego in the Oregon Legislature, I joined with Sen. Richard Devlin to pass an increase in the dollar limit on local option levies. The duration of each levy continues to be limited to five years. First passed in 2000, Lake Oswego’s local option levy was renewed in 2004 and 2008. The time has come to renew it again.

The renewed local option levy will raise about $7 million per year. As important as the foundation is to Lake Oswego schools, the levy provides several times as much. The levy is not a tax increase but simply a continuation of a stream of support that our schools depend on.

Our high-quality schools are most significant for the families whose children attend. But they are also important to those, like me, whose children are grown. The reputation of its schools attracts great citizens to Lake Oswego — citizens with strong skills and aspirations who apply their energies to all aspects of civic life. It also enhances the resale value of our homes.

Longtime residents of Lake Oswego may recall wistfully the days before 1990 when they decided how much property tax revenue to raise and it all stayed here.

Today most funding decisions about education are made in Salem. But the local option property tax levy preserves an important element of local control. We decide to raise this supplemental funding and we see it spent in our community.

Elections in odd-numbered years typically have low voter turnout. If you’re registered to vote, you received a ballot in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Please vote in favor of the local option levy and then be sure to mail the ballot in or drop it off at the Lake Oswego library. It must be received by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Greg Macpherson, Lake Oswego, is a former state representative from House District 38 and a recent candidate for Lake Oswego mayor. He is an attorney and partner with the Stoel Rives law firm.



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