Updated: Voters pass Milton-Freewater school funding measure

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MILTON-FREEWATER — After more than a decade of failed school funding measures, voters Tuesday approved a local option levy that will help fund programming and maintenance in Milton-Freewater School District schools over the next five years.

Residents voted 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent to support the local option, which will cost property owners an additional $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value a year over five years, yielding about $300,000 from residents per year. The tax also generates an extra $350,000 from the state each year.

Over the five years, the School District will receive about $3.2 million between the local tax and state match for direct maintenance and support of district needs.

Levy dollars will specifically go toward maintenance, security and safety needs, new curriculum materials, and to repair or replace school buses as needed.

The community’s support of the levy ends a more than 10-year streak of voter-rejected bond measures for the School District.

“On behalf of the district I’d like to thank the citizens of Milton-Freewater for their support of the levy,” Interim Superintendent Jim Reger said after results were announced Tuesday evening.

Reger, who is leaving the district at the end of June, said he felt the voter-approved revenue would have a lasting effect on the district over the next five years by improving safety, security, maintenance and student transportation.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said.

Reger took over leadership of the district in 2011 following the departure of former Superintendent Marilyn McBride.

Faced with falling enrollment and a shrinking funding from the state, Reger focused on instilling a culture of transparency and openness in his administration and throughout the district, which may have served the district and School Board in passing the levy.

The Milton-Freewater School District has about 1,880 students and five schools plus one alternative school, and an overall operating budget of about $19 million, based on figures for the current 2012-13 school year.

The levy is not the only good news the district has received this month.

At the May School Board meeting held last week, Reger said the district is to receive another $250,000 from the state for the current school year, helping it end the year with a larger than expected reserve.

Also in Tuesday’s vote, five incumbent School Board members were elected to new terms expiring 2017. They are Dennis Burks, Duane Geyer, Don Miller, Tim McElrath and Tara Lewis, who all ran unopposed.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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