Oak Harbor school levy tax hike supported

At the levy forum Monday, Oak Harbor High School Choir Club President Katie McClimans asks the board to fund activities like choir because choir brings joy to the community.  - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
At the levy forum Monday, Oak Harbor High School Choir Club President Katie McClimans asks the board to fund activities like choir because choir brings joy to the community.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

The community forums for discussing the Oak Harbor School District draft levy wrapped up this week and the school board hopes to make a decision about what they will ask property owners to fork over in the February 2013 levy election.

The board meeting Monday, April 30, may decide the issue.

Presently, the draft levy would set the rate at $1.83 per thousand of assessed value, bringing in $6.85 million from taxpayers, plus an additional $1 million in state levy match funding. That would approximately double the local levy contribution.

More than 75 parents, teachers, staff and community members attended the meeting Monday evening. Twenty-seven people stepped up to the microphone in support of the levy and to implore the board to add all-day kindergarten, more school nurse positions, more special education funding, more counselor positions and other programs to the levy. The audience clapped loudly after each speaker voiced his or her support for the levy.

“We are inadequately staffed to meet the needs of the students,” said school nurse Robbin White as the three school nurses for the district stood before the crowd and asked the board to include more school nurse positions in the levy. School nurse Chris Perkins described her position as much more than ice packs and Band-Aids; the nurses deal with students suffering from seizures, blood loss, heart problems and even cases like an esophageal tear or going to court to seek medical attention for impoverished  students.

Students and teachers asked that activities and athletics be funded since they are seen by some as the core of education.

“Contribution, autonomy and mastery. That’s what we teach in after school activities,” said Oak Harbor High School Choir Director Darren McCoy.

Choir Club President Katie McClimans said choir is all about getting involved in the community, from organizing concerts to singing in retirement homes.

“It brings joy and hope to the community,” she said.

Bill Weinsheimer, Oak Harbor High School Associate Principal and parent, said he supports the levy because with state and federal funding on the decline, Oak Harbor should move toward reliable local funding like the property tax levy instead.

“It’s about keeping it local,” he said. “For too long, Oak Harbor has relied on others to fund their schools.”

Many speakers agreed that the district needs to work hard to get Navy spouses involved in supporting the levy and get them registered to vote. The school district educates and cares for Navy children, said Oak Harbor High School Principal Dwight Lundstrom.

The district needs to take on the mindset, “Failure is not an option,” teacher Andy Wesley said, adding that the district needs to run the levy until it passes.

“Let’s ask for us. Let’s let the community tell us whether we’re asking too much,” said parent and former board member Dave McCool.

As to whether the community would be willing to double the current levy rate, Superintendent Rick Schulte said, “That’s the essential question. And I don’t know any way to find that out except having a vote.”

“The people who are silent or not here, we don’t know what they think until we have a vote,” Schulte added.

The school board will discuss the levy at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 30 in the school district building.


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