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Board finalizes levy election

Oak Harbor School Board on Monday gave the formal go-ahead for a maintenance and operation levy next March aimed at keeping current services in place for another four years.

A levy district voters approved in 2001 paid for services including extended elementary school day, advanced placement classes at the high school, and art and physical education teachers at elementary schools.

To ensure those programs continue, the school board approved running a four-year levy.

“We want to maintain current programs and the levy is essential to keeping things going,” said school board member Kathy Chalfant during Monday’s meeting.

March 8, 2005, voters will decide on a four-year levy that has an estimated tax rate of 75 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. The levy will raise $1.8 million from property taxes plus an estimated $814,000 in matching money from the state.

The 75-cent rate is approximately 2 cents below that approved by voters in 2001 and roughly the same rate as this year, according to school district officials.

In 2005, the school district is expected to collect $2.77 million in levy dollars and state match. That amount is estimated to increase to $2.881 million in 2008 and then $2.996 million in 2009.

When the school district ran the levy in 2001, officials estimated property tax valuations would increase by 4 percent a year. However, the average valuation increase has been 6 to 8 percent a year, according to information from the school district.

Should that trend continue over next four years, then the levy rate would decrease to 73.5 cents in 2006, 72 cents in 2007, 70.7 cents in 2008 and 69.4 cents in 2009.

The school district has been working on the levy proposal over the past year and has included numerous public meetings.

“It’s amazing to me the amount of work that goes into these things,” said board member Dave McCool.

The school district considered running a second levy asking for money to pay for more programs and employee benefits. That idea was scrapped. The board didn’t think voters would approve a tax hike.

Work on promoting the levy continues by citizens in the community.

Citizens for Better Schools is figuring out a strategy to promote the levy in the coming months.

The group is developing a campaign that focuses on maintaining existing programs while sticking to the current tax rate, said Rick Almberg, a volunteer with Citizens for Better Schools.

“We want to keep the programs we have going,” Almberg said.

A campaign kickoff is planned Jan. 6, 6:30 p.m. at the Broad View Elementary School gym.

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