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Future levies, school bonds discussed

In the next couple of years, voters in the Oak Harbor School District will decide several money measures. If approved, the bonds and levies will help maintain and improve educational services and also upgrade facilities.

The first of those measures will come before voters in March of 2005 when two levies will appear on the ballot.

The first will restore the $1.5 million levy which voters approved in 2001 and the second will ask for additional money for school programs.

The current levy, which is set to expire next year, helped pay for a variety of additional services in the school district. Those services include a hot-lunch program, advanced placement classes at the high school, and art and physical education classes at the elementary schools. The levy helped reduce class sizes by paying for additional teachers.

Voters pay 75 cents per $1,000 on the current levy.

If voters approve the second levy, they would pay an additional 55 cents per $1,000 on assessed property value. It would raise $1.3 million and the school district would receive an additional $650,000 in matching funds from the state.

That levy would pay for a special education teachers and fund programs that help students in danger of dropping out.

“The bulk of this goes into student achievement issues,” said David Peterson, assistant superintendent of the Oak Harbor School District.

The levy would also provide money for technology and general maintenance of district facilities.

Officials got a heads-up on upcoming measures during a Wednesday evening meeting between the Oak Harbor School Board and the Oak Harbor City Council.

In addition to the two levies, voters in the next two years will decide on several bonds that could change the landscape of the Oak Harbor School District.

In November 2005, voters will consider a bond to build a new athletic facility and stadium at Oak Harbor High School.

That facility will replace the current Memorial Stadium which lost its bleachers last year after school district officials were forced to condemn and demolish them.

Before a stadium bond heads to the voters, the Rotary Club hopes to reach its $1 million fund-raising goal that will help offset construction costs for the school district.

Then, in the spring of 2006, another bond measure will go before voters that will pay for a renovation of the high school. That bond is estimated to cost between $32 million and $35 million dollars.

Vicki Harring, president of the school board, said that certain items, such as a performing arts center, will be taken out of a high school renovation bond.

In March of 2003, voters rejected a $45 million bond that included a performing arts center and sports facilities.

Harring said it turned out that voters would have supported a high school remodel, but wanted to see it scaled back.

If voters approve such a bond, the high school would see an increase in square footage and upgrades to its facilities.

Officials are looking at running a second bond along with the high school bond that would include a performing arts center.

The performing arts center was a topic of discussion during the Wednesday evening meeting. Some city council members wondered whether voters would appreciate the construction of an auditorium rather than a performing arts center. Others also questioned how the community would use such a facility.

“I think there was a lot of good discussion on what is a performing arts center,” Harring said.

Some thought that a shift in language to “auditorium” would make such a facility more palatable to voters.

No decisions were made at the joint meeting, rather it was an opportunity for both groups to meet and discuss issues facing the area.

The city council and the school board are trying to meet several times a year for similar meetings.

They are planning to meet again in the fall. During that meeting, communications will be discussed.

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