Editor's note: The following editorial appeared in the Curry Coastal Pilot on March 19, 2003.
Time to let locals control school funding
Many Oregon school districts, including those in Curry County, are facing huge revenue shortfalls that must be eliminated by drastic cuts to operations.
It's the result of existing property tax limitations that have taken the control of school districts' pocketbooks from local taxpayers and transferred it to Salem, which now pays three-quarters of the cost of public education.
The system worked at least marginally well when the state was financially sound. But the current budget crisis has revealed the flaws inherent in the current setup.
It's time for some real reform to the state's taxing structure andndash; a necessity if Oregon is ever to escape the boom and bust cycle in which it currently operates.
Oregon lawmakers are considering several bills that would precipitate that change.
One minor solution that warrants serious consideration is a constitutional amendment that would give taxpayers in school districts the right to approve higher property tax rates for their schools.
Currently, the school property tax rate is capped at $5 $5 per $1,000 of a property's assessed value. The bill would amend the state constitution to raise that amount to $7 per $1,000 upon statewide voter approval.
Of course this is easier said than done. Because of the state's double majority requirement andndash; at least 50 percent of voters must go to the polls and approve a particular measure andndash; unwanted tax increases can be rejected easily.
Even so, lawmakers should approve sending this particular bill to voters for a Yes or No vote. If Oregonians want to regain some measure of financial independance for local school districts, this change would be the first step in that process.