10-27-2016  11:39 am      •     
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Voters will be asked to consider a five-year levy in November, designed to pay for more teachers and updated books and learning materials.
The "local option" levy proposal was approved unanimously by the Portland School Board on Monday.
If voters approve the measure, taxes would be collected beginning in November 2007; it would provide the district $33 million in the first year and would result in $41.6 million in 2011-12, the levy's last year.
The tax of $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation represents about $13 a month for a $124,000 home, the median assessment of homes in the Portland district.
Ballots will be mailed to registered voters on Oct. 20 and must be returned to the Multnomah County Elections Office by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The total property tax rate collected by PPS would remain lower than the rate paid in 2004-05, the final year of the previous voter-approved local option levy, according to district officials. However, a "gap bond" tax of 50.3 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation — approved by the state Legislature earlier this year to cover the district's budget shortfall — will begin this fall.
The five-year local option levy would pay:
• $29.3 million for 380 teaching positions across all 85 schools. District officials say that maintaining teachers' jobs will prevent increases in class sizes and help protect programs such as art, music and physical education, vocational and technical education, support for struggling students and library services.
• $4 million for up-to-date classroom materials for students and teachers to use in the classroom, such as science lab materials, math workbooks, literature and reading texts.
District officials say that the local option proposal requires independent citizen oversight to ensure that the money is spent as the voters directed. They promise that all money raised will be spent directly in the district's schools, with no money spent on central administration and no money distributed to other parts of the state.
The Legislature, recognizing that many communities might want to support their schools beyond the base state funding, allowS communities to pass local option levies for their schools.
Portland voters approved a local option in 2000; that funding expired in 2005.
This year, the city of Portland, Multnomah County, the business community and the state Legislature cobbled together $21 million in one-time-only funding to maintain teaching jobs and a full school year for 2006-07. The school district is also spending $12 million in reserves.
The school board's decision was applauded by a group of about 75 parents, students and supporters who attended the meeting. The supporters are forming a campaign to persuade voters to approve the levy.
"Property tax rates for Portland Public Schools taxpayers have dropped sharply," said Rhys Scholes, parent of a Buckman Elementary student and campaign manager for the levy supporters.
"In the Portland school district we are paying only $4.77 per $1,000 of assessed value for local schools. In Gresham, it is $7.14 per $1,000; $7.98 in Beaverton and $9.23 per $1,000 for schools in Wilsonville and West Linn, and that's almost twice as much as we're paying."
Scott Bailey, father of students at Grant High and Fernwood Middle schools, said the levy would prevent classes from becoming larger.
"Manageable class size is a critical component of a quality education," Bailey said. "Without this levy, class sizes would increase and that would hurt student achievement."

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