Oregon schools decide against levy on November ballot

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The Oregon City Schools District will not be placing an operating levy on the upcoming November ballot.
        Superintendent Hal Gregory informed the school board at a meeting on Tuesday that budget cuts and savings will keep a levy off the ballot.
        “At this time, we have taken the necessary measures internally to reduce our budget through targeted permanent reductions over $2.1 million along with significant savings from the mandatory school closure during the last quarter of the 2019/20 school year,” said Gregory.
        In addition, the projected state reductions for this upcoming year are not as high as previous guidance suggested,” he said. “We had assumed a state budget reduction over 10%. Recent guidance suggests a reduction closer to 3.7% for a positive difference of $1,2 million. These items, along with the economic climate in our state, county and community, influenced this decision.”
        The district had a 4.95-mill operating levy on the primary ballot last spring. Gov. Mike DeWine delayed the state’s original primary on March 17 to a mail-in primary election on April 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The levy was defeated by a vote of 55.9 percent to 43.6 percent.
Educating students
        The district’s focus for the upcoming school year will be educating students in the era of COVID-19, said Gregory.
        “We will take all necessary steps to keep our students and staff safe along with providing as much typical education to our students as possible,” he said.
        “It is very hard to predict what positive or negative financial impacts will occur during the upcoming school year. With this uncertainty, we feel a levy is not in the best interest of our district or community at this time. Each year, Treasurer Jane Fruth updates the district’s “five-year forecast,” which details our financial picture and predicts when we will need additional revenue. This forecast is completed each October and May. Upon the completion of the October 2020 forecast, we will re-evaluate our financial situation and determine if a levy is needed in the spring of 2021,” he said.
        “School funding continues to be a shared responsibility with state and local funding both sharing the balance. We will continue to keep the community informed as our financial conditions change,” he said.
        “So we looked at the entire picture of everything that’s happening right in front of us and made the decision that we will not be placing a levy on the ballot in November,” he said.
        Gregory said he was going to mail a letter to people in the community informing them of that decision.            
        The 4.95-mill levy that was defeated earlier this year was needed, according to school officials, because the district’s expenses would exceed revenues this year.
        The district’s five-year financial forecast predicted the district would have financial issues this year. At a meeting last December, Fruth said that revenues were flat and expenses were expected to increase $2 million-$3 million annually.
        “With students losing out on 24 percent of the school year, our expenditures were below estimates by 3.6 percent.  This allowed us to have higher cash balances at the end of the year than originally estimated, which is good news,” she said.
        “We did receive notice that Oregon will be receiving an additional $190,000 in Coronavirus Relief Funds,” she said.
        On Nov. 3, 2015, a 3.95-mill operating levy was passed after voters rejected several levy attempts in previous years. The district continues to collect $1.8 million annually on that levy.


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