Friday, Oct 19, 2018
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Washington Local discusses potential tax levy


The Washington Local school board meeting appeared to be getting back to normal, at least, for a day. 

Board of education members met early Saturday morning at the Conn-Weissenberger American Legion Post 587 for a work session to discuss the potential need for a tax levy, among other topics.

At the meeting, which was announced two days prior, the board would not allow public comments. While the meeting was open to the public, the only one in the audience was a district principal.

Discussion about a potential tax levy centered on the funding need to complete construction projects and cover costs for school security measures, among other improvements.

Jeff Fouke, the district’s treasurer, urged the board to pass a tax levy in the near future and criticized the state government for crippling the district with what he calls an unjust funding model.

“It’s unconstitutional,” Mr. Fouke said. “The state has a formula for state aid that is shortchanging us about $14 million.”

The district’s current operating budget is about $87 million, he said.

The board did not formally agree on an exact amount, but discussions centered on possibly asking voters for a 4.9-mill levy. If approved, it’s estimated the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $185 annually, Mr. Fouke said, although he cautioned those calculations are preliminary with more details to be made public at a later date. 

The board discussed using a portion of any additional money to install cameras and a communications system in some of the schools.

“Right now with the temperament in America with school safety and all the shootings and things, I think people are going to support it strongly,” board member David Hunter said.

Washington Local has a history of garnering voter approval for levy requests.

Voters have passed a levy in each of the past five times one was on a ballot — 2000, 2004, 2008, 2011, and 2014. In the last example, voters passed a 4.9-mill levy in 2014, yielding roughly $3.8 million annually to the district.

Saturday’s meeting was held at the Legion hall — as will all board meetings through March — because of a 2016 decision to ban Patrick Hickey, board member and former WLS superintendent, from district property. 

Mr. Hickey resigned as Washington Local’s superintendent in December, 2015, shortly before the school board could consider a resolution to fire him because of 37 charges compiled by a board-hired law firm. Those charges included allegations he failed to inform the district that he left Addison Community Schools in Addison, Mich., in 1990 after accusations surfaced that he had inappropriate relationships with students.

While his separation agreement set limits to his access on district property, the school board subsequently banned him from all district property after an altercation between Mr. Hickey and officials at a basketball game.

Washington Local’s next regular board meeting is March 21.

Contact Javonte Anderson at janderson@theblade.com419-724-6065, or on Twitter @JavonteA.

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