The Roseburg School District’s five-year, $6 million levy request took a twisted route to the May 21 ballot. The school board resolved to run a levy and then decided not to. Then it decided to. Meanwhile, the levy has been unfortunately linked with the issue of whether to close a school.
Nevertheless, voters should block out the noise and the messy process and approve the levy.
Every district resident, not just those with students, has a stake in this. The levy presents a chance for Roseburg to make a statement about its future.
It seems like every time an organization or a government agency compares this area to the rest of the state, this area comes out at or near the bottom. Smoking rates, unemployment, poverty, etc.
The levy is an opportunity to show that while Roseburg may have its problems, it doesn’t have any trouble investing in its kids.
Right now, that investment is in jeopardy.
The school district has suffered from cuts in state funding. Superintendent Larry Parsons told News-Review reporter Inka Bajandas that the district has cut $10 million from its budget in the past five years. School board members, who have no financial stake in the district and were elected to keep on eye on how carefully the district spends money, have studied the figures. All seven of them concluded that schools need more money for textbooks and computers. It also needs money for roofs, boilers, floors and a septic system.
The bill adds up to $6 million.
Paying back the loan would raise taxes by an estimated 37 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or $55.50 on a $150,000 house.
It’s a cliché and patronizing to liken the sacrifice of a tax increase to forgoing a cup of coffee each week or a pizza each month. We like our coffee and we like our pizza. We also should like the idea of making Roseburg known as a place that cares about education.
The benefits could be considerable. Support for public schools suggests an engaged city optimistic about its future. Businesses looking to grow are bound to be attracted to such a place.
Roseburg has supported its schools before. In 2000, voters approved by a wide margin a 20-year bond to improve the high school. The district’s bond and permanent tax rate totals $4.65 per $1,000 assessed valuation. Taxpayers have several more years to go before paying off the bond. But even if the levy passes, Roseburg’s total tax rate for its school district will be less than what is paid by taxpayers in Winston, Reedsport, Glide, Elkton, Glendale and Drain.
The school district could wait and hope state funding picks up. But it won’t increase fast enough to erase several years of austerity. Roseburg School District voters have a chance to now to bound forward and get on a smoother path.