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Schulte to unveil Oak Harbor School District levy preferences Monday night

Superintendent Rick Schulte will present his three preferred levy options to the Oak Harbor School Board at a community forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 9 in the school district office.

Over the past seven months, the school board has been using the first meeting of every month as a community forum to discuss topics for the upcoming levy, which will be proposed to voters in February 2013.

Oak Harbor students receive from $400 to $1,800 less funding per student than comparable districts, according to Schulte.

Also, the district’s funding sources, including Federal Impact Aid and the Local Effort Assistance levy match funding, are in danger of being cut further. The district receives Impact Aid due to the government’s presence on the Navy base, but that revenue is expected to decline by $250,000 to $500,000 each year, Schulte said.

To determine which issues should be supported by local levy money, the school board discussed everything from text books to transportation and athletics and found that almost every area could use some bolstering from levy dollars.

The replacement cycle for textbooks was discontinued due to budget cuts, meaning books will deteriorate and become out of date in the next few years, leaving students less prepared for state standardized testing. Technology is also at risk of becoming outdated.

District facilities and grounds require maintenance or may risk failure, and it’s time for a complete modernization of Oak Harbor Elementary School and the transportation center, Schulte said.

Athletics and activities have suffered continuous cuts over the years and face further cuts. Possibilities include cutting middle school sports, cutting some assistant coaches, reducing the number of events or cutting some high school athletics and activities, Schulte said.

Despite already eliminating midday transportation, activity buses and some routes, transportation has a $500,000 shortfall. Allocating more money in this area could bring back every-day kindergarten, which was axed to reduce transportation costs.

Special education programs are short on staff due to lack of funding, which can’t keep pace with the growing range of needs of students with disabilities.

Staff and teacher pay is hardly average anymore, especially with the cost of living adjustment frozen by the state, and the district can’t expect to attract and retain quality employees without competitive pay and benefits, Schulte said.

At Monday’s meeting, Schulte will present three levy options that restore some of the cuts the district has made over the past few years. However, none of the options will restore all of the administrative positions and other cuts that have been made, Schulte said.

Two options will leave the district underfunded by $250 to $1,000 per student compared to nearby districts, and the third option will initially put the district close to the average comparable funding, but that will decline as Impact Aid funding declines, Schulte said.

Two further budget and levy forums are scheduled for Mondays, April 16 and 23.

 

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