Ballots for a Jan. 23 special election were expected to go out to Benton County voters this week. Although Measure 101 directly involves a tax on insurance companies and some hospitals to provide health care for low-income state residents, there could be an impact to the education budget.
That's what business manager Bill Mancuso told the Philomath School Board at its Dec. 14 meeting.
"The effect that it might have on us, strictly from my role in an education standpoint, is if the vote is a 'yes' vote, then the funding will remain as is," Mancuso said. "If the results are a 'no' vote, then there's the possibility that funding to the school districts in 2018-19 will be reduced because some of that funding that is used from this tax was part of the state school fund."
Mancuso said that through the impact of that tax, the Legislature was able to pass an $8.2 million spending plan last summer.
"If the vote is a 'no,' then there's the possibility that the Legislature in a special session will have to find other ways to fill the loss of revenue and so there could be a decrease," Mancuso said.
When asked by school board chair Jim Kildea just how much the Philomath School district could possibly lose, Mancuso wasn't able to provide a solid number.
"It could be about $100,000, I don't know for certain," he said. "But fortunately overall in terms of our size of a school district in the state, we're not one of the larger school districts, but it will have an impact on us. Any money that is coming out of our general fund is an impact on our work in the classroom."
The tax was approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor during the 2017 session. Three Republican lawmakers, arguing that health-care costs would be shifted to consumers, gathered enough signatures for a referendum to allow voters to say yes or no to the assessments — as the Democrats tend to call them— or taxes, the Republicans' favored wording.
If voters say no to Measure 101, thereby eliminating or delaying the taxes, it will cause a drop of $210 million to $320 million in state revenue, resulting in a possible reduction of $630 million to $960 million or more in federal Medicaid matching funds, according to the Secretary of State's website.
A "yes" vote would keep the 0.7 percent assessment on certain hospitals and a 1.5 percent tax on insurers and coordinated-care organizations that facilitate the state's Medicaid program. A "no" result would force the Legislature, which runs from Feb. 5 to March 9, to search for money to replace the funds the state would then be deprived of.
Betty Reynolds, president of the Oregon School Boards Association, mentioned Measure 101's impact in a piece published in The Outlook, a Gresham newspaper owned by Pamplin Media Group.
"Although Oregonians can celebrate a strong economy, education funding remains uncertain," Reynolds wrote. "School funding is tied to the fluctuations of personal income tax revenue, and the anomaly of the personal kicker, PERS costs, and now ballot Measure 101, which could impact some of our most vulnerable students.
"Boards may again face decisions of cutting back instructional time and laying off teachers," she added. "Education's share of the general fund is lower than past decades, and sadly, academic performance may reflect that, such as the third-lowest graduation rate in the country."
The last day to register to vote is Jan. 2 and the county planned to mail ballots Jan. 3. Ballots need to be received by the county by 8 p.m. Jan. 23. An official ballot dropsite is located in town near the front entrance of the Philomath Community Library. Ballots can also be mailed, although postmarks do not count when it comes to the Jan. 23 date.
In other news from the Dec. 14 meeting:
· The board reviewed the most recent work session with Kings Valley Charter School with an emphasis on Rural School Funding pass-through numbers and where to next take the discussion.
· The board briefly went over preparations for introducing a school operating levy renewal that will appear on the May 15 ballot.
· The board unanimously approved new hires, which included Kylie Blackburn (playground/lunch room) and Renee Mason (instructional assistant) at the elementary school and John Booker and Janet Lane, who will food-serving duties at Blodgett.
· The board approved three budget committee appointments — Kimberly Lopez, Michelle Kutzler and Tom Klipfel. A fourth candidate submitted an application. The committee is made up of five community members and five board members.
· The board approved a resolution for the school district's inclusion under the state's deferred compensation plan, also known as the Oregon Savings Growth Plan.
· The board approved a memorandum of understanding involving a change of language involving short-term disability and the donation of sick leave days.