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Oak Harbor kicks off levy campaign
Should North Whidbey voters approve a new Oak Harbor School District levy in February 2012, the district would collect $7.35 million each year.
While that amount is more than double the amount collected on the current levy, school officials say the extra money is needed to help restore the roughly $5 million worth of cuts made in recent years and to bring the school district closer to the levies in neighboring school districts and military school districts throughout the state.
“It’s important for people to understand that we’re not bringing back everything,” Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte said.
If approved, levy dollars will bring back 10 of the 34 teachers that were lost in recent years due to funding losses from the state. In addition, the extra levy dollars will also bring back more special education staff and allow the school district to make textbook purchases, which is something officials haven’t done for several years.
If approved, a homeowner would pay an estimated $1.98 per $1,000 assessed property value on their home. The levy has to pass by a 50 percent, simple majority.
The current levy pays for 20 teachers, seven teacher assistants and 11 support staff and computer and supply purchases.
Voters passed the current levy in 2001 and they have re-approved it every four years since. The original levy helped get the district’s hot lunch program off the ground. Since then, the program has become self-sustaining.
Oak Harbor School District spokesperson Joe Hunt said the increase seems significant because the district’s levy collection is low compared to other districts. He said the Oak Harbor School District spent $599 in levy dollars per student during the 2011-2012 school year while the state average is $2,014 per student.
If the February levy is approved, that amount will increase to approximately $1,300.
“No matter how you look at it, Oak Harbor will have one of the lowest levies in the state,” Hunt said. He noted that comparing levy dollars by per-student spending is the most accurate way to compare levies between school districts.
Schulte added that other school districts serving military populations also have larger levies than the Oak Harbor School District. Clover Park(Joint Base Lewis McChord) spends four times as much, Central Kitsap(Naval Base Kitsap) spends three and a half times as much and Medicine Lake(Fairchild Air Force Base) spends two times as much.
“We believe our Navy kids deserve as much as the Army, Navy and Air Force kids in other school districts,” Schulte said.
Both Schulte and Hunt described the levy as a conservative, needs-based proposal. Schulte stressed that it won’t provide everything that used to be funded by the school district.
Both school officials and volunteers are busy preparing for the results of the February levy and rounding up support.
The school board is conducting monthly workshops dissecting what would happen to various programs if the levy passed or failed.
A Nov. 13 school board workshop touched upon athletics and activities while next month’s workshop will feature maintenance, grounds and custodial.
Citizens for Better Schools held its kickoff for the levy campaign Wednesday night. More than 100 people attending listened to two bands perform and volunteered for various committees to promote the levy and get yard signs and buttons.