The La Grande School Board and Superintendent Larry Glaze had a difficult decision to make last week after the campaign committee for the local option levy campaign recommended that a levy not be put on the May ballot. Glaze recommended and the school board agreed that the time just isn’t right for a local levy.
The school district’s financial needs aren’t going away, not even with the passage of Measures 66 and 67 at the statewide level in January. Though the additional revenue from the state will help offset some of what’s needed to make the district whole again, those monies won’t rebuild what was cut this year. A five-year option levy would have provided the extra revenue — about $800,000 a year — for the district to fund athletics and activities as well as roll back pay-to-play fees, add three elementary teachers and a sixth-grade teacher, establish a maintenance program and buy new math and science textbooks. Not having that revenue will mean the district still won’t be whole in 2010-11, and cuts in the budget will be necessary. Whether or not community fundraising will be needed to ensure athletics and activities continue remains to be seen as the 2010-11 budget is put together.
The district’s predicament meant the school board members had a difficult choice to make in deciding whether to pull the levy from the ballot. Although there is a tremendous need for the levy, the board made the right choice, as difficult as it had to be. When you have a citizens group charged with campaigning for the levy telling you it’s not likely to pass, you have to listen. Why go through an expensive process when the outcome seems pretty certain?
The recession still has a grip on our economy, from the local level to the state and nation. Although the situation seems to be improving slightly, not enough jobs are being added to bring back the feeling of confidence that is one of the biggest components of economic recovery.
The chances of any money measure passing in these economic times are slim, no matter how great the need. Spending on vital public services is probably seen as important by a majority of voters, but when it comes to deciding if you have an extra $100 or so to spend, that money is most likely to go to the family budget.
The school district is committed to toughing it through for at least one more year. But it could mean the community pitching in again to ensure our kids have access to athletics and activities. Even that would be tough.
Time will tell as the budget is put together. But one thing is certain: something is going to have to give.