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Maybe it's time to think locally

Other communities seek local taxes to fund schools. How about here?

The news just keeps getting worse. First the Medford School District last week announced plans to trim athletic programs at the middle schools and high schools. No sports will be eliminated entirely, but coaching positions will be cut, teams will get bigger and playing time for individual players will suffer.

In Rogue River, a community effort to save school sports yielded a plan to double pay-to-play fees and drop stipends to coaches. That will at least keep games happening in the district's new stadium, built with community donations.

In Eagle Point, the school board voted Thursday night to close an elementary school and trim 20 school days from next year's calendar.

These are just examples. The hard times are hitting every school district in the state, and every program in the schools.

Looking for the prospect of some relief from all of this gloomy news? Don't look to Salem. Also on Thursday, the latest state revenue forecast was down nearly &

36;666 million from the prediction in March.

— Maybe it's time to raise some revenue right here.

Ashland has been doing it for three years. The Youth Activities Levy, first adopted by voters in 1994 and renewed in 1997 and 2000, yields &

36;1.7 million a year for a wide range of school activities.

The levy is up for renewal in Tuesday's election.

To the north, local tax levies are on the ballot as well.

Beaverton schools are asking voters for a property tax levy of &

36;1.50 per &

36;1,000 assessed value for operating money.

In Albany, the school district is asking voters to approve a local option levy of &

36;1 per &

36;1,000 assessed value. The tax would raise &

36;3 million in each of the next two school years to keep teachers in classrooms.

In Multnomah County, voters are being asked to approve a 1.25 percent local income tax to support schools, public safety and some social programs.

Are these long-term solutions to Oregon's funding problems? Of course not. Will they help ease the pain in those communities that adopt them? Yes.

Ashland had to face reality much sooner than other districts in the state, largely because of steadily declining enrollments that meant lower payments from the state even when times were good. Voters responded, because quality schools were important to them.

Would a local option tax fly elsewhere in Jackson County? It's hard to say.

The temporary income tax increase on the statewide ballot Jan. 28 went down in flames.

But it's easy to say no to a tax requested from Salem, with proceeds to be divvied up across Oregon. It's harder when your kids or your neighbor's kids are affected.

Communities around the state that care about their schools are stepping forward to do something about it. Maybe it's time Medford and other Rogue Valley communities do the same.

Get those ballots in

Election day is approaching. Those ballots that have been cluttering your kitchen table along with the junk mail need to be returned to the county elections office no later than 8 p.m. Tuesday.

It's not an exciting election, as elections go. But there may never be a more important one.

Voters will choose school board members at a time when school districts need solid leadership more than ever.

In Ashland and Phoenix, tax measures will fail if 50 percent of voters don't cast ballots, no matter how many people vote yes. So if you value Ashland schools or police and fire services in Phoenix, vote.