Board backs 50 percent majority

The Oak Harbor School Board passed a resolution Tuesday evening affirming its support for a simple, 50 percent, majority to pass maintenance and operations levies.

The school board has discussed the simple majority for years. However, change could finally be in store for the approval requirement. The state Legislature approved changing the requirements for approving levies from a 60 percent supermajority to a 50 percent simple majority. Because it requires a change in the state’s constitution, the proposal heads to the voters in November.

“Our fight has just begun,” board member Vicki Harring said. “Now we need to educate the community.”

The Oak Harbor School District passed its current levy originally in 2001. It was renewed in 2005 and comes before voters again in 2009. The school district’s levy pays for such things as art and physical education teachers for each elementary school.

The proposed majority change applies to school levies, while bonds, which fund construction projects, will still have to pass by a 60 percent supermajority.

The school board held a public hearing during its Tuesday evening meeting to gather comments.

One resident, Scott Hornung, spoke against the resolution.

“I’m against the simple majority. I think it takes the state off the hook,” Hornung said. He said the changes could lead to more unfunded mandates from the state.

He said it would be better to keep the pressure on the state to meet its funding duties. He added that keeping a higher standard for approval would ensure levy proposals are well-vetted to the public.

Linda Preder, co-president of the PSE union that represents school district support staff, said the union worked with legislators to help pass the proposed change.

School board members unanimously supported the measure. Members were concerned about the perceived inequity of having a minority decide whether a levy passes or not.

“The inequality of that situation bothers me,” board member Kathy Jones said.

David McCool expressed similar sentiments.

“In a democracy it’s always the majority telling the minority how to do business,” McCool said.

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