Local Option: Vote yes to continue local schools’ funding

Hood River County School District has benefitted since 2004 from funding of two prior local option levies. The latest proposed levy on the Nov. 6 ballot, Measure 14-48, also deserves a yes vote.

Oregon public school funding is primarily controlled by the legislature, which in 1999 signed into law the local option. It allows communities to make local funding decisions for their schools, essentially providing additional funding.

Hood River schools first benefitted from the law in 2004, when a three-year local option levy was approved. The current, five-year levy was passed by voters in 2008. A yes vote renews the current local option — set to expire June 30, 2013 — through 2018.

The proposed rate — a maximum of $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value — is the same rate that has been assessed the past three years. The owner of property assessed at $200,000 would pay $250.

The proposed rate is estimated to raise $1,750,000 a year. Matching revenue from the state would be equal to approximately 38 percent of local option revenue collected — or about $665,000 a year.

Not all communities support their schools as loyally as does Hood River. In all, 28 of the 198 school districts state wide carry local options. Recently there is mixed news statewide regarding local option levies: Canby voters in May rejected a local option levy similar to Hood River’s by about a 3-to-2 ratio; a year ago, Beaverton voters rejected a local option levy; yet closer to home, Portland Public Schools voters passed one last year.

It took Hood River two attempts to gain its first passage in 2004. Justifiably, the local option has endured skepticism, thanks in large part to well-run schools and a high degree of community interest and involvement. In the past few years parents and community groups have increasingly stepped up efforts to help sustain arts, music, middle school sports and even nutrition programs, as fewer general funds have been available.

The recession has caused the Oregon Legislature to reduce the State School Fund that provides operating funds for K-12 schools statewide. Hood River schools and staff had planned ahead, making some prudent, tough budget decisions. Foremost was eliminating 10 teaching positions, 22 licensed positions (PE, language, child development, technology and others) and 2.5 district office jobs in the past two years. The district also took the difficult but necessary steps of paring Cascade Locks School from K-12 down to K-5, as well as turning Pine Grove from a K-5 facility to house district special needs and other uses.

Credit goes to the Hood River Education Association, whose membership last spring agreed to a two-year contract that included no pay increase this school year and a 0.5 (half a percent) increase next year.

This is evidence that there is no one answer to the question of how a school district makes it through lean times and still provides quality education. The local option is part of a larger equation. Revenue collected by Measure 14-48 will allow the district to maintain current programs. The Hood River News encourages voters to vote yes on Measure 14-48.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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