The finance committee of the Portland school board voted unanimously tonight to ask voters to raise property taxes dedicated to paying operating costs of Portland Public Schools by about 60 percent, from $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $1.99 per $1,000.
That would make for a second school tax hike on the May ballot for voters who live within Portland Public Schools' boundaries. The board already has put a $548 million school construction bond out for a May vote.
Board members said the dire forecasts of having to cut hundreds of teaching jobs to balance the 2011-12 budget drove them to make a second "big ask" from voters.
The average home in the school district is worth about $230,000 and assessed at about $175,000. Currently, that property owner pays no property tax for school construction (the last bond expired in 2006) and pays about $220 in so-called local-option levy taxes to pay for teachers, textbooks and other core costs of running Portland schools.
If voters approve both tax increases, to bolster school operating budgets and to upgrade school buildings, the owner of that average home assessed at $175,000 would see the property tax bill rise by nearly $500 a year -- about $350 a year for the construction bonds and about $130 for the higher operating levy.
I am against them. Unless there are changes, I’ll vote against them. I’m already campaigning against the construction bond levy – if only a little. I’ll do more near the May vote and also campaign against the operating levy. As I said in November about the construction bond levy (here):
I’m a “no” voter, and possible “vote no”campaigner, until PPS begins creation of a high school study abroad program and until PPS has clear plans to add Mandarin immersion classes to the levels supported by parental demand. I see no good purpose in investing in an outdated school system that is not moving to meet 21st century economic and national security needs. The school system needs to change first.
So, while I’m generally supportive of spending more on education, we have to get what we are paying for right. I hope Portland Public Schools will make some progress on a high school study abroad program and more Mandarin immersion classes before May. Then I could vote for both levies. Otherwise, come May, it's a double "No."