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"School board separates M&O levy, lunches"

"Tuesday night the Oak Harbor School Board decided to separate a $1.5 million maintenance and operation levy from a $225,000 hot lunch program levy on an upcoming March ballot.On a 3-2 vote the board decided not to follow the recommendations of the district's superintendent and a citizens' levy committee who had expressed concern that separating the two could send a message to voters that one of the two propositions was expendable.But board members Kathy Jones, Jim Slowik and Susan Waller said that, based on comments they had heard from area residents, they believed that keeping education issues away from lunch issues will give both a better chance of success.As a result, the March 13 ballot will now contain three school district propositions. The first will be the maintenance and operations levy which will amount to $0.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in districtwide property taxes. The second proposition will be a $0.07 per $1,000 levy with will pay for custodial, administrative and startup costs for the hot lunch program. The meals themselves are paid for by state and federal funds. The third ballot item will be a bond for construction of a new stadium and other sport fields.Jones said that since the district failed to pass a levy with a lunch program included last spring, she has heard from many no voters that the lunch issue was key to their vote.Most of the complaints we heard were hot lunch, hot lunch, hot lunch, she said. Many of the complaints came from people who incorrectly believed that they would be paying to feed other people's kids. Nevertheless, said Jones, the attitude is still out there.Oak Harbor is one of only a handful of school districts in the country that do not offer a federally-sanctioned hot lunch program. Jones said having the $0.07 per $1,000 lunch program appear separately on the ballot will show even no voters how inexpensive it is to put the program in place.They will see it and say, 'This is pennies. We can do this,' she said. The tax would amount to about $10.50 per year on a $150,000 home. "

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