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See where Oregon voters rejected or embraced money measures on Election Day

Despite a questionable economy, deep concerns about inflation and cynicism about big government, Oregonians showed a continued willingness on Election Day to back local government spending measures and open their own wallets to do so.

John Horvick, a Portland pollster who tracks the success and failure of such measures in each 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 asked of them, or two thirds.

“To me that’s notable,” said Horvick. “Americans are frustrated with government, the economy is difficult to understand, but voters say it’s in bad shape.”

With the lingering effects of the pandemic and a highly contested election landscape, he suspected pre-election that voters might be reluctant to tax themselves 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 willing to invest in their community.”

On average, the approval rating for taxes that voters passed was 56%, according to Horvick’s analysis.

That’s not always the case, of course. In Josephine County, where the loss of federal timber payments resulted in drastic cuts to public services in the past decade, the Board of Commissioners sent a 3% seasonal sales tax to voters Tuesday 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.

Likewise, 74% of affected voters in Lane County said no to a bond to replace a fire station; 71% of affected voters in Clackamas County rejected the annexation of the Johnson City library district by the county; 63% of affected voters in Lincoln County rejected a five-year tax to fund a water district, and 61% of West Linn voters rejected a $17.5 million bond issuance to fund water line replacements required due to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Interstate 205 improvement project.

All voting percentages refer to the percent of eligible voters. In some cases only a small portion of residents in a given jurisdiction are eligible to vote on a measure.

OREGON ELECTION 2022: Live Results Page | Election page

Meanwhile, voters in Redmond 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 to fund the facility when it opens.

By and large, however, voters around the state said yes to schools, parks, fire personnel and equipment, water projects, biking infrastructure and higher cannabis taxes.

Julie Parrish, a former Republican legislator from West Linn, now works for state Rep. Cedric Hayden, who was elected last week to the state Senate. She said she’s not surprised by West Linn voters’ rejection of the bonds to replace water lines given their frustration with ODOT’s road improvement and tolling plan.

She said Oregonians are highly skeptical of large tax increases at the state level, but they’re typically willing to support local tax measures if they feel they’re getting good value. Still, she was surprised by the high levels of support for various tax measures given the state of the economy and voters’ personal struggles. “There’s a weird disconnect given that a loaf of bread is five bucks.”

Overall, schools were a big winner on Tuesday. Voters in districts around the state approved the issuance of more than $1 billion in debt to fund schools. Seven of the 10 education funding measures passed. They included:

$450 million in bonds for Portland Community College to build job training space, update classroom technology and equipment and facilitate distance learning. The measure passed with 61% support.

– $250 million in bonds for Bend-La Pine schools to cover the cost of 87 projects across the district, including the renovation of Bend High School. The measure passed with 59% support.

$140 million in bonds for David Douglas School District to repair buildings, secure entrances and construct a new specialized career center for technical and science education at David Douglas High School. The measure passed with 60% support.

$122 million in bonds for schools in Forest Grove to repair buildings, improve school safety and expand pre-kindergarten. The measure passed with 54% support.

– $45 millions in bonds to renovate and expand capacity of schools in fast-growing Umatilla County. The measure passed with 53% support.

Not all school measures passed. Voters in East Portland’s Parkrose School District rejected a five-year school levy that would have brought in $2 million annually. According to meeting minutes of the school board, the district faces a $3.2 million budget shortfall for the 2023-24 school year and could lose 12% of its staff in coming years.

The tax was intended to retain 22 positions — approximately 13 teachers and nine educational assistants across 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, according to Parkrose School Board Chair Elizabeth Durant. In 2011, a bond to rebuild Parkrose Middle School passed by just six votes.

A survey of 400 likely voters conducted in June by an outside research firm indicated that the intensity of support for the latest measure was “muted,” and Durant said she heard some of the same from voters when canvassing in support of the levy. There was no organized opposition, but the measure failed by 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 backfill the funding when it reconvenes in January. “I understand, but I’m deeply disappointed. I hope voters will reconsider.”

Likewise, 57% of voters in Jackson County rejected a $4 million bond issuance to fund infrastructure school upgrades in the Rogue River district, funds that would have been doubled by a $4 million matching grant from the state.

“We took great efforts to present a bond measure to the community that reflected what the community has told us that they wanted in our district,” Rogue River School District Superintendent Patrick Lee told 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 in line for a $4 million matching grant from the state. The price tag may have been a factor, as the bonds would have cost homeowners $2.66 per $1,000 in assessed value, or $532 a year for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000.

– Ted Sickinger;; 503-221-8505; @tedsickinger

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