PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon's special election is here, and education funding and its impact on your taxes will be on the ballot.
Portland voters will decide whether to renew a levy that costs taxpayers $1.99 per $1,000 assessed value on homes. Measure 26-207, also known as the 2019 Teacher Levy, renews the current local option levy that has funded more than 800 teaching positions a year in the city at the same tax rate.
For a typical home in the district with an assessed value of $233,925, it will cost the owner about $465 dollars a year, according to officials.
The same levy passed in 2014, but now it's ending. Advocates are asking voters to do it again.
"It is enormously important for our kids. It makes sure that we have enough, very high quality, highly skilled, highly experienced teachers in the classroom helping kids," said Portland Public School Board Member Rita Moore.
Moore was out canvasing the Irving neighborhood last month along with other school board members and volunteers, asking the community to get out and vote.
"This is an off-cycle election," Moore said. "So the big issue is going to be turnout. We need people to turn in their ballots."
Thursday, Oct. 31 was the last day to mail in a ballot. You can still take yours to the nearest drop-off site until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Otto Schell, the legislative director for the Oregon PTA, has been talking to voters about the levy renewal for weeks.
"We the voters can tax ourselves to keep a higher quality in the classroom. It's really important," Schell said. "The PTA response, once people realize this reaches so far and it's on the ballot right now, has been very positive."
The renewed levy is projected to raise $99.9 million in the first year and total more than half a billion dollars over five years.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
Over the past five years, the levy has funded more than 800 teaching positions each year. That's about one-third of all teaching positions in Portland Public Schools.
If approved, the renewed levy would maintain that over the next five years. If not, the district says jobs could be lost.
Levy money will provide supports, such as reading specialists, instructional coaches, and councilors. It also aims to support career and technical programs as well as enhance electives, such as arts programs for all, according to Moore.
"Those are the kinds of specific interventions that we know help kids, help all kids, and are particularly helpful for the kids who may be coming from challenging circumstances," Moore said.
It is important to remember this is not the only place the schools get money. They receive basic level funding from the state.
Also, a new business tax will raise about $1 billion for school statewide each year. However, PPS is only guaranteed $39 million from that tax, according to Moore.
"It's not enough for Portland to support the teachers, and the specialists, and all the people in all of our schools who are so critical for kids' success in school," Moore said.