Voters in the Washington Local Schools district have approved the district’s requests for levies four times: in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2011.
Now, struck hard by a decrease in state funding and property valuations, the district is turning to its voters once more. The district has added a 4.9-mill continuous levy to the November ballot. The levy, meant to generate $3.8 million, will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $171.50 a year.
Failing to pass the levy “would be somewhat catastrophic,” Superintendent Patrick Hickey said. “This money is drastically needed to continue the same functioning we currently have. We actually need much more than we’re asking for, but we’re trying to give back as much as possible.”
As the number of students enrolled in WLS has increased over the last decade, he added, the staff has decreased by about 5 percent as a consequence of the drop in revenue, Mr. Hickey said. Washington Local Schools offers 200 courses, including numerous advanced placement courses, more than 50 extracurricular activities, and 22 varsity sports. The community has come to expect all of these from the district and all stand to be affected if the levy fails.
Of the 4.9-mill levy, 4.3 mills will pay for general operations, and 0.6 will fund permanent improvements, including capital expenses.
Mr. Hickey said that although the district has not decided on a list of projects to fund with levy revenue, officials are discussing eliminating portable classrooms and funding the upkeep of existing facilities.
The district spent around $31 million over the last eight years for the upkeep of its facilities, and has put an additional $10 million toward a badly needed replacement of Whitmer High School’s steam lines, Mr. Hickey said.
Mr. Hickey added that WLS is planning an educational campaign to demonstrate to the community the importance of passing the levy. With 57 percent of WLS students in poverty, he said, it is critical that the district continue to provide them the academic opportunities for which it is known.
“We don’t know what will happen if the levy fails because we haven’t failed a levy,” Mr. Hickey said. “If the community believes that we’re not worthy, we’ll cross that bridge then.”
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