December 6th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Schools

PPS to Seek Construction Bond AND Local-Option Levy on May Ballot?

PPS's Blanchard

Portland Public Schools' $548 million construction bond may not be the only tax measure for Portland schools on the May 2011 ballot.

According to Portland School Board member Bobbie Regan, the board is also contemplating asking voters in the PPS district to renew a local-option levy at the same time as the construction bond. That local-option levy, which expires in 2012 and generates about $30 million a year to pay for teachers' salaries and books, first got voter approval in 2006. [Update on Dec. 7: The local-option levy generated about $30 million in its first year. But its value has increased to nearly $40 million in 2010.]

"We haven't yet had a thorough discussion about this but all board members are keenly aware of the budget situation we face and it could make sense to look at renewing our operating levy at the same time as we begin to address our facilities needs," Regan wrote in a Dec. 5 email. "I am hearing from many an interest in doing these campaigns as a unified effort."

Technically speaking, the $548 million construction bond isn't a done deal. The School Board is scheduled to vote Dec. 13 whether to refer the measure to voters. However, the proposal already has a campaign manager in Chris Dearth, a Wilson High parent who worked for Gov.-elect John Kitzhaber during the Democrat's previous terms as governor. Dearth also seems to support coupling the local-option campaign with the proposed capital campaign.

"[I]f we can avoid cuts to the classroom in the coming school year by passing the local option now - when the legislature is about to make severe budget cuts - then it may make sense to renew the local option now rather than wait until 2012," Dearth wrote in a Dec. 5 email that followed Regan's. "It would also be far more effective and efficient to run one campaign to pass both measures now rather than a separate campaign later."
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