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
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
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.