undecided on next action
By Lynn R. Parks
Woodbridge voters last week turned down a district request for an
increase in the school portion of their property taxes to build a
new middle school. The vote was 958 for the increase, 1,022 against.
"We lost by just 64 votes," said superintendent Kevin Carson. "To
lose by that small an amount is hard. I think I would rather lose
by 640 than by 64."
Residents also vetoed an increase for operating expenses by a vote
of 1,034 to 917. The proposed increase would have helped pay for staff
and supplies for the new school. Both proposals combined would have
resulted in a 67.5 percent increase in the school portion of residents'
property tax bills.
Carson said that other than arranging for the delivery of additional
modular classrooms to handle its increasing student population, the
district is undecided as to what to do. "A lot of people are telling
us to try again," he said.
The state allows two referendums on the same issue in 12 months. There
is no time requirement on scheduling the second referendum except
that mandates regarding adequate public notice must be fulfilled.
"That means that we could get in a second referendum before Easter,"
said Carson. "Whether we will do that, I don't know."
The Raider Committee, a 25-member group of community members, will
meet within the next two to three weeks and will then make a recommendation
to the board, he said.
Carson said that if the district decides to again press for a tax
increase, it will have to "present it differently or present something
different." That could include eliminating new administrative offices
from the proposal.
administrative offices are located in the kindergarten in Bridgeville.
The district initially proposed that they be moved to the new facility
to allow for expansion of classroom space at the kindergarten.
"I suspect that some people had concerns about that," said Carson.
"I haven't heard that from anybody, but historically people are opposed
to providing space for administrators."
Removing those offices from the proposal would decrease the cost of
the building by $475,000; of that, $118,000, or 25 percent, would
be the district's portion.
"When you are talking about $21 million [the local portion of the
whole project], that is an insignificant amount, but removing it might
carry some weight," Carson said.
Carson said that he still believes a new school is necessary. Enrollment
at the elementary school is 982 as of March 1 and while the senior
class at the high school has only 54 members, 164 seventh graders
will be coming in next year.
"Our kids deserve the same educational environment that is found in
surrounding school districts," he said. "That means smaller classes,
building air conditioning and athletic facilities that allow you to
compete. Our kids are no different from other kids.
"We heard that some people were opposed to air conditioning, others
were opposed to building new athletic fields. But our athletic fields
are not adequate and our buildings are roasters. That is not a good
environment for our kids."