4J Leveraging the Levy

Eugene School District 4J asks voters to renew school funding

The Eugene School District 4J is asking local voters to vote to renew the district’s local option levy in the May 21 Primary election. 

The levy, also known as Measure 20-357, would provide the district with approximately $26.4 million to $29.8 million annually for the next five years. The levy contributes to the district’s general fund and goes strictly towards 4J schools’ operations. School staff, including teachers, custodians, bus drivers, counselors and nurses, make up 89 percent of the operations budget. 

The levy rate is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value of a property and 4J says the rate is subject to a voter-approved property tax limitation, so some property owners pay less than the maximum rate. The levy has no formal opposition.

Levy committee co-chair Morgan Munro, who also serves on the 4J board, explains that while district bonds buy things, levies buy learning. “The local levy is the way to fund the classroom,” Munro says

Eugene residents have been paying the local option levy since 2000. So, while voters may be tempted to vote “no” to save a few bucks, renewing the levy doesn’t increase taxes or impose new taxes. If the renewal passes, voters will continue to pay the same rate. 

The levy is the primary way for voters to support public K-12 education in Eugene, a sector that has been facing challenges since returning from the pandemic. 

“The needs that our students have are so significant coming out of the last couple of years,” Munro says. “Kids went through a lot, and they bring that with them when they come to school, and those kids deserve and are entitled to a great education, and that takes people, so that’s what the levy pays for.” 

The levy is also a crucial portion of the 4J budget — the funds equate to roughly 200 teaching positions or the cost of six weeks of school. 

“This will keep us at a steady state. This doesn’t expand anything. It doesn’t pay for more teachers or more educators or more staff in the schools. It’s to maintain the same rate we have now,” says Judy Newman, Yes for 4J Schools levy committee co-chair. 

Eugene voters have voted to renew the levy for the past 24 years, with the renewal passing every time since 2000. 

“It’s really important that Eugene maintains the consistent tradition of renewing this levy because, without it, we’ll be contracting quite dramatically,” Munro says. 

How dramatically? According to Munro, without the levy funds the district has relied on for the past 24 years, the fallout will be painful. 

“Most directly where they would see, like, what their students are doing. Yeah, they’re going to see less staff, so you’re going to see fewer mental health services,” Munro says. “You could have larger class sizes, likely, because if you have a smaller workforce, you’re going to have to put more kids in classrooms.”

Without a levy renewal, fewer teachers get paid, which ultimately means larger class sizes and, thus, poorer learning conditions for students. 

“So, while nonrenewal would be painful, that’s not gonna happen. It’s not gonna happen because the community is going to say yes for students and yes for 4J,” Munro says.

The current levy expires in June 2025 and passed in 2019 with more than 70 percent of the vote.

This story has been updated.