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School Board: yes on 66, 67

After hearing state Rep. Peter Buckley and former Mayor Alan DeBoer square off on Measures 66 and 67, the School Board voted Monday to support the tax increase.

Rep. Buckley, an Ashland Democrat, urged the board to support the measures, which would increase Oregon taxes to pay for education, health care and public safety.

DeBoer, owner of TC Chevy in Ashland and the Historic Ashland Armory, spoke against the tax increase, saying it would hurt businesses.

The board voted 5-0 to support the measures and encourage voters to do likewise.

"I'm grateful that the board has offered their support, and I think that the measures are targeted and absolutely necessary to keep our education system intact and keep our state intact as we work our way out of this recession," Buckley said.

DeBoer, a school board member for eight years before he became mayor in 2000, could not immediately be reached for comment on the meeting.

The board voted to support the measures because, if they fail, state budget cuts could leave Ashland School District with $1.35 million less in funding, according to district documents.

"To make more cuts to an already beleaguered education program — at this time I can't imagine doing that," Board Chairman Keith Massie said.

If the measures don't pass, district administrators will have to make even deeper budget cuts than they made this spring, after state funding for education decreased due to the recession, Massie said. The district's $22 million budget for this school year is 15 percent lower than the previous year's.

For Ashland School District, $1.35 million less in funding could mean laying off about 18 teachers or having about 18 furlough days, or some combination of the two, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said.

"With the level of cuts we've done already, that would be very, very difficult for us to implement," she said. "To have to implement any more is really going to have a negative impact on students."

If the measures pass, they would raise the $10 corporate minimum tax to $150, increase the corporate income tax and ask households earning over $250,000 — or individuals earning over $125,000 — to pay more in taxes.

Some Oregon business owners oppose the tax increase, saying it comes at a time when they are barely scraping by financially.

The tax increases have already been factored in to the state's 2009-11 budget.

Opponents of the increases gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the Jan. 26 ballot, giving voters an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.