Get your hands off my kids' education

By Jody Wiser of Portland, Oregon. Jody is an advocate for progressive tax policy at Tax Fairness Oregon.

Who is paying attention while Hillsboro gives away $131 million of K-12 funding? A proposal to create a new Urban Renewal District in Hillsboro will do this without a peep so far from parents, teachers, school board members, unions and other advocacy groups. The seem to be unaware of this back-door theft of education dollars.

At least Commissioner Malinowski asked for a chance to hear proponent and opposition arguments before the 4:1 vote. In less than a month, the Hillsboro City Council will vote.

The objective: sequester all new tax revenue from 1090 acres of farmland along with taxes of a dozen or so nearby existing significant businesses -- and spend it on sewers, water, jogging paths and other amenities to create a “World Class Industrial Park.” It is prime industrial land. Nearly flat, great freeway access, plenty of clean water, in a dynamic industrial part of Hillsboro, and in Oregon where energy, employees and business taxes come cheap*. But is an industrial park more important than education? As one signer of Tax Fairness Oregon’s petition to stop the effort, wrote:

Hillsboro seems to be forgetting that the foundation of economic development is education. If they claim to be the "economic engine" of Oregon, they have forgotten the fuel.

It’s another Hillsboro rip-off. Please, the rest of the state, pay attention here. Speak up. $131 million in diverted k-12 dollars is more than enough to pay for a week of k-12 education statewide! We can’t ignore this. And because of the way Oregon schools are funded, it will be schools statewide that will suffer the loss.

The Hillsboro City Council will hold a one-hour hearing November 17th, 7 p.m. at the Hillsboro Civic Center.

* Oregon’s electricity rates are amongst the lowest in the nation, thanks to hydro power, average earnings in Oregon are 10% below the national average and our business taxes are among the lowest in the nation. Most businesses that emerge on the 1090 acres included in the proposed Urban Renewal District will pay no property taxes at all for the first 5 years as Hillsboro has already designated the area an enterprise zone.

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