Levy campaign head hopes voter turnout is strong in the special election

The community widely supports a measure for a five-year local option levy for schools, but supporters fear low voter turnout could affect the outcome of the Nov. 5 election.

Zero arguments are filed against the renewal levy, Measure 3-434, in the Clackamas County voter’s pamphlet. Nine separate groups have arguments in favor of the measure in the pamphlet, including education advocacy organizations, real estate agents, the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Oswego City Council.

Audrey Monroe, the head of the levy campaign, said one reason the bill has so many advocates is it’s a renewal levy. If passed, the measure would continue the same levy rate of $1.39 per $1,000 of assessed property value that passed in November 2004 and again in November 2008. A person with a $350,000 home now pays $487 per year for the levy, less than $41 per month. The current levy expires in June 2015, but advocates want to get out the vote early so they can bring the issue back before voters if it fails the first time.Audrey Monroe

Another reason the measure’s garnering support is people recognize the levy revenue’s import, as it comprises 10 percent of the school district’s budget, and strong schools can boost property values, Monroe said.

“Most people would see their residence as their biggest investment,” she said.

Voters also possess a strong sense of community and pride in their schools, Monroe added.

Yet, as ballots go out Friday, she is concerned those who receive them may forget to fill them out and drop them off. The percent of registered voters who cast ballots in special elections is lower than in regular elections.

“There’s nothing really huge driving people to the ballots,” such as a presidential election, Monroe said.

The Lake Oswego School District encompasses three counties. There currently are 28,756 registered voters in the district, 28,445 in Clackamas County, 175 in Washington County and 136 in Multnomah County.

In the November 2011 special election, the turnout was 39.4 percent of 212,685 registered voters in the county. In November 2012, when President Barack Obama was re-elected, the turnout in Clackamas County was 83.4 percent of 229,236 registered voters, according to the county elections division’s records.

It’s important not to rely too much on others when it comes to voting, said Patti Zebrowski, Lake Oswego School Board chairwoman.Patti Zebrowksi

“Often, people, they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s a great idea. Everyone in town supports it; I don’t need to vote,’” Zebrowski said. “That is how (measures) fail, and people are shocked, and they can’t believe it happened. In a small voter turnout, unusual things can happen.”

Zebrowski said the levy revenue is crucial to the district, and without it, the board might be faced with grim decisions such as staff cuts and consolidating the two high schools.

The final audited numbers for the 2012-13 budget will not be available until December, but Finance Director Stuart Ketzler said the levy revenue constitutes almost 11 percent of the operating budget at $5.9 million. The levy revenue’s going to be roughly 10 percent of the 2013-14 operating budget, Ketzler said.

“I’m hopeful that (revenue) will grow again as real market property values increase,” he said.

The levy first was passed in May 2000 with a rate of $1.18 per $1,000 of assessed value and has brought in tens of millions of dollars since then. The levy is crucial to the school district along with annual gifts from the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, said Mary Kay Larson, a member of the 2013-14 Hallinan Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization executive board. The foundation donated $1.7 million to the school district in fiscal year 2012-13.

Larson said students are a good investment, frequently acting as community volunteers and organizers of fundraisers for charities.

“There’s definitely a sense of pay it forward,” she said.

How to help

There’s a community walk on Sunday during which volunteers will remind fellow community members to vote. Participants can meet at 12:45 p.m. at Lakeridge Junior High, 4700 Jean Road, and 1:30 p.m. at Lake Oswego Junior High, 2500 Country Club Road.

Volunteers also are being sought to call fellow voters to remind them to submit ballots on the evenings of this coming Wednesday and Oct. 30, Nov. 3 and Nov. 4.

To participate in these events, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and put “walk” or “phone” in the subject line.

Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @jilliandaley.

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