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home : opinions : opinions June 18, 2018

4/24/2018 6:31:00 PM
Transmissions, tires, bonds and levies
By Winter Lewis

I remember vividly when my dad sat me down as a 15-year-old and told me he would help me get my first car.

"I will match what you can earn to buy a car," he said.

What did I do? Found the cheapest car I could, with barely a working transmission, to get one as soon as I could. I named it "Sweet Thing.'"

As a part of my responsibilities with the car, he mandated that I set up two distinct banking accounts. One account for engine upkeep, tires and maintenance. The second account for gas to make Sweet Thing go.

"Each account is for its intended purpose and not to be used for the other," he stated.

A monetary firewall was put up between the two. When I had no gas money, Sweet Thing sat cold in the driveway until I could earn more money or pressure my dad to give a little from the maintenance account. He wouldn't.

Little did I know, my dad was the embodiment of Oregon schools funding:

Bonds are for the maintenance. Levies are for the gas. Just like my car savings accounts, Oregon schools funding law will not let proceeds from one account go to support the other.

Two years ago, Sisters passed a school bond for building maintenance and safety upgrades. Those dollars have been invested wisely to make sure our buildings will last and our kids are safe. Now, the renewal for gas money is upon us.

Measures 5 (1990) and Measure 50 (1997) changed education funding dramatically in Oregon. Before 1990, 70 percent of school funding came from local property taxes, with voters deciding how much they were willing to pay for their schools and also controlling more in terms of how those dollars were invested locally. Today, only 30 percent of school funding comes from local property taxes and the rest is supported by the State's general fund. Salem essentially collects revenue and redistributes it using an equalization formula that "weights" students enrolled based on poverty and other demographic data, as well as special-education needs (called ADMw) and teacher experience.

In 2000, Sisters School District residents chose for the first time to implement the Sisters Schools Local Option levy of 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value to provide additional local funding to make our schools outstanding and help our students better compete with their peers nationally. That same levy has been approved by voters three times (2004, 2009, 2013) since then. The last levy vote, in 2013, passed by a 79 percent margin.

The Sisters Schools Local Option levy funds 9 percent of the annual operating budget for Sisters schools. This funding equates to approximately 15 teachers or 26 school days. The local option allows our school district to retain great teachers, keep class sizes small and maintain a full school year. The renewal of the levy is key in funding our core curriculum classes, special-education and advanced-placement (AP) classes. The levy also helps to support our unique Sisters schools programs like flight science, Interdisciplinary Environmental Expedition (IEE), and the luthier program.

Here's the bottom line: We can keep the gas money coming without raising taxes. The Sisters Schools Local Option levy before us is to renew our gas account. Not asking for more, just keep it the same.

The School Board has done the right thing with the bond dollars they were given two years ago. Getting public input, adjusting projects as needed and being transparent with their funding process. The car is performing well and our kids are better for it. Let's keep giving them the gas money to drive toward a brighter future. Vote YES on 9-121, renew our Sisters Schools Local Option


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