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Voters will decide fate of schools' levy renewal

Local option levy expected to bring in $4 million a year through 2019

Voters in the Tigard-Tualatin School District will have a say this fall on whether or not to extend the school district’s longstanding local option levy.

The levy, which is set to expire in 2015, taxes homes up to $1 per $1,000 of its assessed value, or about $200 a year for a $200,000 home.

The Tigard-Tualatin School Board unanimously approved a plan on Monday to place the levy up for renewal on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Voters will be asked to continue the current levy as-is, without any changes to its structure.

“We all know how absolutely crucial this is for our community, our teachers and our students,” School Board member Jill Zurschmeide said on Monday.

District officials have said for years that the local option levy is a key source of funding and is used to maintain programs and hire staff.

“It buys teachers,” School Board member Barry Albertson said. “It buys the bodies that are most important for (our students).”

The levy brought in more than $4 million when it first began in 2000, and $7 million in 2010, but took a hit during the recession, losing up to $1 million each year during the downturn.

District officials expect the renewed levy to bring in more than $4 million annually in the next four years, the equivalent of about 50 teaching positions.

School Board member Maureen Wolf has long been a supporter of the levy, testifying before the Oregon Senate’s Finance Committee in 2013 that the tax is critical to the district’s success.

“By maintaining a levy, our district has been able to stabilize our budget at a time when state funding has experienced high degrees of uncertainty,” she told lawmakers in February 2013.

Voters have long supported the levy in Tigard-Tualatin. First approved in 2000, voters renewed it in 2004 and again in 2008.

If approved, the levy would take effect in 2015 and wouldn’t need to be renewed again until 2019.

The district is barred from advocating for or against the measure, but a volunteer-run campaign committee was launched to spread the word about the levy.

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