School levy may double

Oak Harbor school officials are considering asking voters to double the district’s maintenance and operations levy and they want to know what the public thinks of the proposal.

Have your say at a meeting Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the school district’s administration building at 350 S. Oak Harbor Street.

A task force met last spring and recommended the school district ask for a $1 per $1,000 on property value, which is up from the current 51-cent levy. If approved, the levy would bring in $4 million in revenue for the school district. The owner of a $300,000 would pay roughly $300 instead of $150.

The task force recommended increasing the levy so some of the programs that have been cut over the past two years can be restored; the district can provide more resources for math and science instruction at every grade; and the district can retain the programs currently funded by the levy.

The school district has made $4.5 million in cuts over the past two years. Cuts included the elimination of positions and the closure of Clover Valley Elementary School, which is currently the North Campus of Oak Harbor High School.

The levy funds certain teaching positions and additional staff. It allows the school district to pay for 20 teachers, 10 teacher assistants, and support staff. The extra money also allows the school district to add 30 minutes of instructional time to the elementary

school day; offer additional Advanced Placement courses at the high school; and provide additional help to middle school and high school students struggling in reading and English.

If voters approve the levy increase, the school district will receive an increase in matching money from the state. The district currently receives $400,000 in matching money. Should the levy increase be approved, that amount would jump to $800,000.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said state matching money is based on a comparison based on the assessed valuation per student in the school district and the average assessed valuation per student statewide. Since Oak Harbor’s number is 20 percent less than the state average, the school district qualifies for matching money.

He pointed out that matching money comes from state property taxes homeowners have already paid, so the matching money is revenue coming back into the community. Oak Harbor is the only district on the island that qualifies for levy matching money.

Residents attending the Oct. 8 meeting will be asked to fill out a survey about the proposed levy increase. Getting community input about the levy proposal was one of the recommendations the levy task force made.

“Now we’re going out to the general public, staff and parents,” Schulte said, explaining that input gained from the meeting will influence the kind of proposal the school district puts before voters next March.

A levy increase would take place in 2010, the same time the bond rate will drop by 10 cents per thousand.

Typically bonds that voters approve go to pay capital projects, such as construction of a new stadium and renovation of Oak Harbor High School, while levies fund academic programs and operations of a school district.

The next levy election will be different from previous ones. Instead of having to pass a levy by a 60 percent supermajority, it now has to pass by a 50 percent simple majority due to a change in state law.

Schulte said that change didn’t have a bearing on what kind of levy proposal to present to voters.

The school district is planning to present the levy renewal, which takes place every four years, to voters in March 2009.

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