With full-day kindergarten and the new Smarter Balanced standardized tests looming on the horizon, Eugene School District 4J can’t afford to lose any source of funding. That’s why the district is asking voters to renew a five-year local option levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.
“A big thing voters should be aware of is that this is not a new tax,” says Jennifer Geller, 4J board member. She says that voters have approved the levy three times since 2000, and the district is not raising the property tax rate but instead maintaining the current rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. A person owning property with a total real market value of around $310,000 and an assessed value of around $270,000 would pay about $66 per year for the levy.
Currently, the Oregon Department of Education provides the majority of 4J’s funds, while the local option levy comes specifically from Eugene taxpayers and amounts to about $8 million per year, going toward school programs, teachers’ salaries and other school operations costs. If voters do not renew the levy, 4J will lose the equivalent of funding for 80 teachers or 16 school days, according to 4J’s website.
Geller says the local option levy is the only way that 4J can receive local funds for school operations. In 1990, Measure 5 amended the Oregon Constitution to cap property taxes dedicated to school funding, limiting the amount of funds directed toward education. In other states, sales tax supplements funding for education, but Oregon has no such sales tax.
“Education has so much to do with the well-being of a community,” Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy says. “The success of students affects the success of our community.”
Piercy says that good schools are a huge asset to a city in that the benefits of a good education bolster a community over the long term, and Geller adds that 4J can’t afford any more cuts. This year, the district added back days to the calendar and hired more teachers to reduce class sizes, but the local option levy represents about 5 percent of 4J’s operating budget, Geller says, and the district needs that money to continue adding back what was lost.
“Voting for this is one of the few ways we can express how much we care about our schools and our kids,” Piercy says.
Levy supporters will meet to talk to voters at 9:30 am Saturday, Oct. 25, at River Road Elementary School, 120 Hilliard Ln.