Despite a questionable economy, deep concern about inflation and cynicism toward big governments, on election day Oregonians showed a continued willingness to support local government spending efforts and open their own wallets to do so.
John Horvick, a Portland pollster who tracks the success and failure of such measures in every election, said Oregonians typically approve about 60% of the spending measures on their ballots. This time they approved 37 of the 56 spending measures required by local government agencies, or two-thirds.
“To me, that’s remarkable,” Horvick said. “Americans are frustrated with government, the economy is difficult to understand, but voters say it’s in bad shape.”
With the ongoing impact of the pandemic and a highly competitive electoral landscape, he suspected ahead of the election that voters might be reluctant to tax themselves to fund more governments. But “if it’s local, if it’s clear what it’s for and local leaders are asking them to vote for it, then by and large people are ready to say yes,” he said. “People are willing to invest in their community.”
According to Horvick’s analysis, support for the taxes passed by voters averaged 56 percent.
This is of course not always the case. In Josephine County, where the loss of federal lumber payments over the past decade has led to drastic cuts in public services, the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday sent voters a 3% seasonal sales tax to fund law enforcement. Just 18% of voters in the rural and conservative county said yes, the worst performance of any local funding effort in Oregon.
Likewise, 74% of affected voters in Lane County said no to a bond to replace a fire station; 71% of affected Clackamas County voters opposed the county’s annexation of Johnson City’s library district; 63% of affected Lincoln County voters opposed a five-year tax to fund a water district, and 61% of West Linn voters opposed a $17.5 million bond issue to fund water line replacement , required by the Oregon Department of Transportation ‘s Interstate 205 Improvement Project .
All voting shares refer to the percentage of eligible voters. In some cases, only a small portion of the residents of a particular jurisdiction are entitled to vote on an action.
Meanwhile, Redmond voters narrowly approved 51%-49% of a $50 million construction bond for a new recreation center, but 60% of voters said “no” to a five-year tax collection to fund the facility when it opens becomes.
By and large, however, voters across the state said yes to schools, parks, firefighter personnel and equipment, water projects, bicycle infrastructure, and higher cannabis taxes.
Julie Parrish, a former Republican MP from West Linn, is now working for state MP Cedric Hayden, who was elected to the state Senate last week. She said she was not surprised by West Linn voters’ rejection of the water main replacement bonds, given their frustration with ODOT’s road improvement and toll scheme.
She said Oregon residents are very skeptical of large state-level tax hikes, but are usually willing to support local tax measures if they feel they’ll get good value. Still, given the economic climate and voters’ personal struggles, she was surprised by the strong support for various tax measures. “There’s an odd split, considering a loaf of bread costs five dollars.”
Overall, schools were a big winner on Tuesday. Voters in the state’s counties approved the issuance of more than $1 billion in debt to fund schools. Seven of the ten educational support measures passed. These included:
– $450 million in bonds for Portland Community College to create a workplace for education, update classroom technology and equipment, and facilitate distance learning. The measure was adopted with 61% approval.
$250 million in bonds to Bend-La Pine schools to help fund 87 projects across the district, including the renovation of Bend High School. The measure was adopted with 59% approval.
– $140 million in bonds for the David Douglas School District Repair buildings, secure entrances and construct a new specialized career center for technical and science education at David Douglas High School. The measure was adopted with 60% approval.
– $122 million in bonds for Forest Grove schools to repair buildings, improve school security and expand the pre-kindergarten. The measure was adopted with 54% approval.
– $45 million in bonds to renovate and expand schools in fast-growing Umatilla County. The measure was adopted with 53% approval.
Not all school measures passed. Voters in East Portland’s Parkrose School District rejected a five-year school levy that would have raised $2 million annually. According to school board minutes, the district faces a budget deficit of $3.2 million for the 2023-24 school year and could lose 12% of its staff in the coming years.
The helm should get 22 jobs — about 13 teachers and nine teaching assistants at the six schools serving more than 2,800 students. The district is one of the most diverse in Oregon, serving 70% black and 72% low-income students, according to Parkrose School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Durant. 2011 a bond issue Rebuild Parkrose Middle School passed by just six votes.
A poll of 400 likely voters conducted by an outside research firm in June found the intensity of support for the latest measure was “muted,” and Durant said she heard some of it from voters as they campaigned for the levy advertise. There was no organized opposition, but the measure failed by 54% to 46%.
“It’s pretty heartbreaking,” Durant said, as the district will face layoffs this spring if it can’t convince the legislature to increase funding when it meets again in January. “I understand, but I am deeply disappointed. I hope voters will reconsider.”
Likewise, 57% of Jackson County voters opposed the issuance of a $4 million bond to fund modernization of school infrastructure in the Rogue River District. Funds that would have been matched by a matching $4 million grant from the state.
“We have gone to great lengths to present the community with a retention measure that reflects what the community has told us they want in our district,” Rogue River School District Superintendent Patrick Lee told the Medford Mail Tribune.
Meanwhile, 52% of voters in Yamhill and Polk counties said no to $16 million in bonds for the renovation of two schools in the Sheridan School District, which also includes a $4 million matching grant from the state decency. Price may have been a factor, as the bonds would have cost homeowners $2.66 per $1,000 appraised value, or $532 per year for the owner of a $200,000 home.
-Ted Sickinger; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-221-8505; @tedsickinger
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