04-12-2024  7:23 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 22 February 2024

On Tuesday, February 20, the Portland Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to refer a renewal of the district’s local option levy to the May 21 ballot. “It’s very important to note that this is a renewal, which means the current tax rate stays the same,” board member Julia Brim-Edwards, who chaired the board’s Local Option Levy Committee, said during last night’s meeting. “This is not an increase in the rate, it’s a renewal, and that renewal will play a key role in staffing our schools, supporting about 660 teachers and classroom support staff. All the money stays here locally.”

Funding to support 660 positions

PPS district voters have consistently renewed the levy, providing this critical support for students since 2000. The levy renewal is projected to support approximately 660 positions across the district—at every school—providing enrichments for elementary and middle grades, and electives in varied interest areas for high school students.

The funds also help support career, technical, science, technology, engineering and math programs, including computer science education, so students can graduate with the skills necessary to be career or college ready.

The levy revenue can also fund other classroom support positions across the district, such as educational assistants, reading specialists and special education certified personnel to help identify and support students with mental or behavioral health issues, academic issues, or other needs.

“This is something that we desperately need,” board student representative Frankie Silverstein added, urging her fellow students to talk to the adults in their lives about voting in May.

With insufficient state funding from the Legislature and significant increases in district costs, as well as the end of one-time pandemic relief funds, PPS is projecting nearly $30 million in cuts this coming year alone. If the levy is not approved in May, PPS’s Board will need to identify additional budget reductions in years to come.

“The funding ensures students have access to a well-rounded, strong, and equitable education from elementary school through high school,” says board chair Gary Hollands. “Continued investments are needed in our schools to continue to build career and technical programs, prevent class-size increases, and better support struggling students, especially coming out of the pandemic.”

Renewal, not an increase

This local option levy renews  the one passed by voters in 2019 and maintains the existing tax rate of $1.99 per $1,000 of assessed value. For a home at the district’s current average assessed value of $275,706, the levy cost is $45.72 per month, or $548.65 per year.

The renewed levy would provide an estimated $101.5 million in 2025-2026; $103.0 million in 2026-2027; $106.0 million in 2027-2028; $109.3 million in 2028-2029; and $112.5 million in 2029-30.

Levy funds are placed in a separate account to ensure their correct use and accurate reporting.

This levy renewal measure also requires independent community oversight so that tax dollars are used only for purposes approved by local voters.

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