Numbers are coming in higher than anticipated

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District is gearing up for the budget season. While Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to submit his budgetary recommendations for K-12 education this December, the school district received uplifting data about the local option tax.

Doug Middlestetter, school district business manager, presented information to the school board at its Nov. 5 meeting.

“Our local option tax has been on a precipitous decline,” Middlestetter said. “But much to our delight, our numbers are looking better than we anticipated.”

On Oct. 19, the school district received tax data for the 2012-13 fiscal year from Clackamas and Washington counties. The district budgeted for $1,880,375 for the current year; however, the district will receive $2,817,057 from the local option tax. While funding is still on the decline, Middlestetter said the numbers are “turning around” and the financial improvement of $936,682 will affect the district’s “forward thinking.”

Funding from the local option tax has been on a steady decline since 2008. The school district received $4.9 million in 2011 and $3.2 million in 2012.”The rate of decline is leveling out, which is really significant,” Middlestetter said. “The good news is that it didn’t crash and burn completely.”In May 2000, voters elected to further invest in their children’s education by imposing a local option tax. The district’s local option levy aims to bring in $1.50 for every $1,000 in a home’s assessed property SUBMITTED - Local option tax revenues for the West Linn-Wilsonville School District have been declining since the 2008-09 biennium.

By law, there are limitations on how much the government can tax a property. Measure 5 caps the amount that education districts can collect from real market value, which is the amount a property would sell for on the real estate market and is typically higher than assessed value.

When the tax — which is figured based on assessed value — exceeds the limits set by Measure 5, the assessor must reduce that property’s taxes to the legal limit. This is referred to as compression. So, as real market value drops there is less for taxing districts to share.

The tax initially raised just under $2 million in its first year. Local option revenues grew steadily, reaching a high of about $7.5 million in the 2008-09 school year, and then rapidly decreased with the economy in 2008 and in subsequent years. The decline comes from compression of the margin, where assessed values are catching up with market values that are failing.This year’s roughly $2.8 million dollars from the local option levy seems small compared to the school district’s general budget of $68 million; however, the financial impact is great, Middlestetter said.

”The $2.8 million isn’t a big percentage compared to the total $68 million general budget, but it’s the salary equivalent of 40 teachers. That suddenly brings relevance to the data,” he said.

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