Bridgeville Events
Thursday, April 6th, 2000
 
District hopes voters swallow tax increase
By Lynn R. Parks
According to superintendent Kevin Carson, Woodbridge School District's second referendum attempt in four months is designed to make a tax increase more palatable for voters.
A Feb. 29 referendum on a 67.5-percent school tax increase was turned down by voters. The capital expense portion of the tax increase, requested by the district for construction of a middle school, failed by 64 votes. A current expense tax boost failed by 117 votes.
On March 21, the school board approved a second referendum by a vote of 4 to 1. The referendum, set for May 6, will ask for a 59.5-percent increase in school taxes to pay for construction of a middle school and renovations at current schools, including electrical upgrades to accommodate computers, new roofs and repairs to plumbing. Not included in the proposal is construction of a new administrative building.
"We felt that we just couldn't go back and ask for the same things we had asked for before," said Carson. "We had to answer the concerns people had. So we focused on what we thought were the primary problems."
To address property owner's complaints that the burden of paying for schools is not appropriately shared with non-property holders, the district is asking for a boost in the capitation tax, paid by each adult resident of the district, property owner or not, from $7.70 per resident to $24.80. According to Carson, that increase would offset nearly all the money the district would lose with the smaller property tax increase.
If the referendum is approved, the district will collect $106,042 less than it would have collected if the first referendum had been approved. The increase in the capitation tax will mean $73,029 in additional revenue for the district, leaving a net loss of $33,013. "In the whole scheme of things, that [amount] is not that big a deal," said Carson. "And doing this addresses the issue of spreading tax accountability."
The former referendum request included plans to move the administrative offices out of the kindergarten building where they are currently located into new offices at the middle school site. That, along with plans to renovate the current offices for additional kindergarten space, has been scrapped.
Still included in the proposal are new athletic fields and air conditioning installation in existing school buildings, two items which caused controversy in the initial proposal. "We felt comfortable making some reductions, but not all," Carson said.
If approved, the tax increase would be phased in over two years. According to Carson, the average value of houses in the Woodbridge district is $64,625. A homeowner with a house of that value currently pays $199.60 in school taxes. If the referendum is approved, that will increased by $118.84. Senior citizen rebates would apply.
"No one likes to raise taxes," Carson said. "But it's a matter of investment. Do you believe an investment in education has importance? I believe it does. It brings economic value to the community."
If this referendum fails, state law requires that the district wait 12 months before asking for another. "In the meantime, we are ordering more modular classrooms," said Carson. "We can't plug in our computers and our teams have to play away games."
Editor's note: Letters to the editor concerning the upcoming Woodbridge referendum will not be printed after the April 27 edition of The Star. Only one letter per person will be published.