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‘Disappointment:’ Bend La-Pine, Crook County schools’ money measures suffer voter defeats; now what?

(Update: adding comments by Bend La-Pine Schools, Crook County School District)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In Tuesday's election, both the Bend La-Pine and Crook County school districts suffered losses on proposed money measures, a "learning levy" and a bond measure that would have brought more funding.

Bend-La Pine Schools Director of Communications Scott Maben said Wednesday there was "certainly disappointment, and I think we were surprised by the margin, you know? It was not close."

The vote on Bend-La Pine Schools' five year levy resulted in 57% of voters saying no and 43% saying yes, a margin of more than 6,000 votes.

"The priorities we built this levy proposal around are the right priorities for our district and our community," Maben said. "But now we need to take some time and understand exactly what the outcome of the vote means for us going forward, reassess what we can do within our existing funding."

The operating budget for the 2024-25 school year is already set for next year and was not based on the levy; however, in order to maintain a balanced budget, about 60 positions will be eliminated.

"We are confident we can do that through attrition, such as retirements or vacant positions," said Maben. "No individuals will be losing their jobs going forward into the coming school year."

Moving forward, the district will be reassessing its priorities, but additional staffing cuts may need to be made for the '25-26 school year.

Meanwhile, the Crook County School District will also have to make do with current funding to manage building and maintenance.

School board member Scott Cooper said, "The monies that come from the Legislature are limited, and they are dedicated to instruction, not construction. And we just can't seem to get past voters understanding that."

The district says the failure to pass the school bond is disappointing, yet unsurprising. With the $11 million bond, the school district was hoping to address water leaks, heating issues and replace a boiler.

"Unfortunately for the next year, students and staff will work and learn in substandard buildings while we continue to work on trying to figure out a longer-term solution, which will have to come from the voters someday," Cooper said.

Both the Bend La-Pine and Crook County district say it's too early to know if they'll  again ask voters for more money in November. They say if that happens, the proposals will look different, but nothing is close to being finalized. 

Though there was no organized opposition to either measure, the vote results largely signify the economic pressure many Oregonians have been facing due to inflation and other factors being felt from the grocery store to the gas pump.

Bend-La Pine Schools' levy proposal was meant to bridge budget gaps amid reduced state funding due to declining enrollment and also provide resources to address critical areas of education.

The priorities included protecting and maintaining class sizes, strengthening and adding CTE pathways, recruiting teachers and support staff, increasing advanced academic offerings for students, improve support systems for struggling students, and enhance elective offerings throughout the district.

The district warned that some 180 positions might be cut in the next couple of years without added funds, either from voters or from lawmakers who they are asking to revise the state's school funding formula.

For the Crook County School District, the $11 million bond measure - called a 'Band-Aid Bond' by Cooper - was purposed to address building maintenance issues such as water leaks and heating issues that became problematic the previous winter. Another set of issues the bond would have addressed was improving safety and security throughout the district.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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