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home : education : schools August 19, 2014

3/19/2013 12:43:00 PM
Local option passes in a landslide
By John Griffith

Sisters voters approved five more years of local option taxes by an overwhelming 79 percent majority last week.

The five-year levy that passed on Tuesday continues the 75-cents-per-$1,000 of assessed value funding that the voters first approved in the year 2000. The owner of a home assessed at $172,024 (the average assessed value of residential property in the district) will continue to pay $129.02 per year.

This year, the local option provided the district with $991,351.35 to supplement its $10,501,384.00 budget, or 9.4 percent of the district's annual budget.

The proceeds of the local option have historically been used to reduce class sizes and provide all-day kindergarten, as well as funding a variety of arts and music programs.

The direct connection between the excellent reputation of Sisters schools and local economic development has been made frequently by the business community as well as the education community.

The local option campaign was by all accounts sophisticated, focused, professional and well-run. It involved literally hundreds of volunteers from all walks of Sisters Country life.

The campaign has prided itself on being non-partisan and community-oriented.

"At a time when divisiveness still crowds out common-sense decision-making at the federal level, the citizens of Sisters are keeping politics out of the conversation and are voting for what's best for Sisters," said Kay Grady, school board member and local organizer for the promotion of the local option.

Grady continued, "I grew up with a family of community volunteers. Even as a child I was always involved with community service. When we won, I thought of my parents and of how proud they would have been that the legacy of community service continues. I also thought, Wow, look how many volunteers stepped up for this; fresh faces that represent the next generation."

Andrew Gorayeb, school board member and a strategic advisor to the effort, said, "How proud I am of the community and its values. It is an amazing thing that a community of our size would get 64 percent participation for a (single issue) election and that 80 percent of people voted yes."

The chairman of the renewal committee, Winter Lewis, a Bend optometrist and Sisters resident noted, "Parents have some really good questions and differences of opinions. I appreciate the opportunity to have a well-thought-out conversation with point and counterpoint.

"It was an opportunity to recommit to the schools. In the end we all want to get better," continued Lewis. "It was a big community effort, and there was a lot of personal touch to this one as opposed to just cold phone calls."

Lewis said, "... the teachers are still producing excellent results even with reduced funding and pay freezes. We hope that the teachers felt they were honored by the results of this election.

"It was a team effort in every sense of the word. There are some wonderful people in this town. It gives me some wonderful hope for the district. I've got a sixth-grader and a third-grader, and I'm very excited to be part of this community," concluded Lewis.

After four successive years of cutting millions out of the school budget due to recessionary cutbacks in state funding, the district is running on limited resources.

"Local option revenues are raised in our community and stay local. They have been essential to maintaining lower class sizes, a full school year, sports, art, music, P.E., shop and outdoor education programs," said former school board member and current Sisters High School teacher Rob Corrigan.

Superintendent Jim Golden was relieved and grateful.

"I am proud of the Sisters community for the outstanding voter turnout we had for the local option renewal," he said. "I want to thank everyone who took the time to vote. In these times of government gridlock, this was a shining example of a community engaged in a positive political discussion around the needs of their public


"It is a credit to our community that they value our children and saw fit to approve the local option for another five years. The school district will honor our stated commitment for using the local option to provide reduced class sizes, free full-day kindergarten along with a full slate of arts, sciences and other electives. It is an honor to serve the Sisters community and I am thrilled for our children."

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