Despite a dodgy economy, deep concerns about inflation and cynicism about big government, Oregonians showed a continued willingness on Election Day to support local government spending measures and open their own pocketbooks. to do it.
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 around, they approved 37 of the 56 spending measures that local government entities requested of them, or two-thirds.
“To me, that’s remarkable,” Horvick said. “Americans are frustrated with the government, the economy is hard to understand, but voters say it’s in bad shape.”
With the lingering effects of the pandemic and a hotly contested electoral landscape, he suspected ahead of the election that voters might be reluctant to step in to fund more government. But “when it’s local, when it’s clear what it’s for and local leaders are asking them to vote for it, then by and large people are willing to say yes,” he said. “People are ready to invest in their community.”
On average, the approval rating for taxes passed by voters was 56%, according to Horvick’s analysis.
This is not always the case, of course. In Josephine County, where the loss of federal lumber payments has led to drastic cuts to public services over the past decade, the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday sent a 3% seasonal sales tax to voters to fund law enforcement. Only 18% of voters in the rural and conservative county said yes, the worst performance of any local funding measure in Oregon.
Similarly, 74% of affected voters in Lane County said no to a bail to replace a fire station; 71% of affected Clackamas County voters rejected the county’s annexation of the Johnson City Library District; 63% of affected Lincoln County voters rejected a five-year tax to fund a water district, and 61% of West Linn voters rejected a $17.5 million bond issue to fund replacements of water lines required due to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Interstate 205 Improvement Project. .
All vote percentages refer to the percentage of eligible voters. In some cases, only a small portion of the residents of a given jurisdiction can vote on a measure.
OREGON ELECTION 2022: live results page | Election page
Meanwhile, Redmond voters narrowly approved a $50 million construction bond for a new recreation center by 51% to 49%, but 60% of voters said ‘no’ to a five-year tax levy. years to fund the facility when it opens.
Overall, however, voters across the state said yes to schools, parks, fire department staff and equipment, water projects, cycling infrastructure, and higher taxes on the cannabis.
Julie Parrish, a former Republican lawmaker from West Linn, now works for state Rep. Cedric Hayden, who was elected to the state Senate last week. She said she was not surprised at West Linn voters’ rejection of obligations to replace water mains, given their frustration with ODOT’s road improvement and toll plan.
She said Oregonians are highly skeptical of large state-level tax increases, but are generally willing to support local tax measures if they feel they are getting a good deal. value. Still, she was surprised by the high level of support for various tax measures given the state of the economy and the personal hardships of voters. “There’s a weird disconnect given that a loaf of bread costs five dollars.”
Overall, schools were the big winners on Tuesday. Voters in districts across the state approved issuing more than $1 billion in debt to fund schools. Seven of the 10 education financing measures have been adopted. They included:
– $450 million in bonds for Portland Community College to build vocational training space, update classroom technology and equipment, and facilitate remote learning. The measure passed with 61% support.
— $250 million in Bend-La Pine Schools Bond to cover the cost of 87 projects in the district, including the renovation of Bend High School. The measure passed with 59% support.
– $140 million in bonds for the David Douglas School District to repair buildings, secure entrances and build a new specialized career center for technical and scientific education at David Douglas High School. The measure passed with 60% support.
– $122 million in Forest Grove School Bonds to repair buildings, improve school safety and expand pre-kindergarten. The measure passed with 54% support.
– $45 million bond to renovate and expand capacity at growing Umatilla County schools. The measure passed with 53% support.
Not all school measures have been passed. Voters in the Parkrose School District in East Portland rejected a five-year school tax that would have raised $2 million a year. According to school board minutes, the district faces a budget shortfall of $3.2 million for the 2023-24 school year and could lose 12% of its staff in future years.
The tax was intended to retain 22 positions – about 13 teachers and nine teaching assistants at its six schools, which serve more than 2,800 students. The district is one of the most diverse in Oregon, serving 70% students of color and 72% low-income students, according to Parkrose School Board President Elizabeth Durant. In 2011, a bond to rebuild Parkrose Middle School passed only six votes.
A survey of 400 likely voters conducted in June by an outside research firm indicated the intensity of support for the latest measure was “silent”, and Durant said she heard the same from voters when requesting the direct debit. There was no organized opposition, but the measure failed 54% to 46%.
“It’s pretty heartbreaking,” Durant said, as the district will face layoffs this spring if it can’t persuade the Legislature to fill in the funding when it resumes in January. “I understand, but I am deeply disappointed. I hope voters will reconsider.”
Similarly, 57% of Jackson County voters rejected a $4 million bond issue to fund school infrastructure upgrades in the Rogue River District, funds that would have been matched by a $4 million matching grant. million state dollars.
“We have gone to great lengths to present the community with a measure of obligation that reflects what the community has told us they want in our district,” Rogue River School District Superintendent Patrick Lee said at the Medford Mail Tribune.
Meanwhile, 52% of voters in Yamhill and Polk counties said no to $16 million in bonds to renovate two schools in the Sheridan School District, which was also awaiting a $4 million matching grant of state dollars. Price may have been a factor, as the bonds would have cost homeowners $2.66 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $532 per year for the owner of a home valued at $200,000.
-Ted Sickinger; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-221-8505; @tedsickinger
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