go deeper than tax hike
By Lynn R. Parks
Robert Glading sees the two recent failed Woodbridge referendums as
battles between generations.
"Kids today are spoiled," said Glading, 71, Bridgeville, who voted
against both tax hikes. "I feel that our youth have by and large abandoned
the values of those of us who were raised in a past time. They are
rude, their dress is atrocious, they are accommodated by their parents
to a degree we could never have dreamed of. They show disdain for
values previous generations upheld."
"Hogwash," said Ruth Ann Hamstead, coordinator for the HOSTS program
at Woodbridge Elementary School, Greenwood. "We have great kids in
this district who deserve the same opportunities that children who
go to other districts receive."
Both the February and the May referendums asked voters to approve
tax increases for school construction, teacher salaries and supplies.
The February vote was on a 67.5-percent school tax increase and the
May referendum asked for a 59.5-percent increase.
The bulk of the money from both referendums would have gone toward
the construction of a new middle school for grades five through eight.
Middle school students now attend the elementary school through the
sixth grade, and then go to the high school in Bridgeville.
According to superintendent Kevin Carson, in the wake of the failed
referendums the district is preparing to move in modular classrooms.
The elementary school in Greenwood will get four new modular classrooms
- it already has seven - and the junior-senior high school in Bridgeville
will get four. It already has one trailer with two classrooms in it.
Carson said that he expects the district to grow by nearly 200 students
by September. The high school will graduate 54 and next fall, will
greet 162 incoming seventh graders. That creates an "interesting challenge,"
Carson said, one that could have been answered by construction of
a middle school on school property on Adams Road, between Greenwood
But at least one Bridgeville business owner thinks that the proposed
middle school was a bad idea. Michael Layton, owner of H. C. Layton
and Sons Hardware, voted against the referendums in part, he said,
because the district's construction plan was not reasonable.
"It should be that the high school is the school that is out in the
country," he said. "That way it would be out there with the athletic
facilities." Both referendums included money for construction of district
and community athletic fields at the middle school site, including
a new football field.
Layton added that parking at the high school is limited. "It stands
to reason that they would put the high school out in the country,
where there would be plenty of parking," he said.
Carson said that the decision as to what type of school would be built
was not the district's to make. "A middle school was the only thing
the state would approve," he said. With renovations at the elementary
and high schools in 1991, the bulk of which was paid for by the state,
the Department of Education ruled that a middle school was the only
construction it would pay for.
"I think that it would behoove us to work with the state to get a
new high school, as opposed to a middle school," said Jack Dalton,
president of the Bridgeville town commission and owner of Ignition
Interlock Services, Greenwood. He voted against both referendums.
"We need the new facility, but we need a full-fledged high school
that is out of town. We have to work on the state level to get things
done right. If the referendum was for a new high school, I would vote
the cost of high school construction is considerably higher than that
of a middle school, Carson said. "That would be an additional $2.6
million to build even the smallest high school," he said. "If I can't
pass a referendum for a $12 million middle school, do you think I
could do it for a $15 million high school?"
Probably not, according to Layton, who owns a home in the Woodbridge
School District in addition to his business. He also voted against
the referendum because he felt the tax increase request was too high.
"It is just not fair to make business owners and homeowners pay that
high a tax," he said.
The district tried to address complaints that property owners are
unfairly hit when it comes to school taxes by including in the second
referendum a boost in the capitation tax, or "head tax," from $7.70
per resident to $24.80. But, said Layton, the county "doesn't make
any kind of effort to collect the head tax."
After the first referendum, "we removed a lot of things we thought
were deterrents," said Carson. The second referendum did not ask for
money for a new administrative building, as the first did, and some
renovations to existing buildings were scrapped. "We tried to listen,
and we got beat even worse."
But that does not mean that they will not try again. While the district
cannot hold another referendum for one year, Carson said that a tax
increase request at the end of that year is "very likely."
"Every opportunity I have to go back and ask for help for our kids,
I will go back," he said. "If there is no referendum, that means that
I am giving up on the kids."
The specifics of the next referendum have yet to be decided, he added.
The Raider Committee, a group of volunteers which recommended this
year's two referendums, will begin meeting within 30 days, he said,
and will probably have a recommendation for the board this summer.
Glading said that he can't imagine any school referendum for which
he would vote. Like Layton, he felt that the tax increase request
was too high and that property owners pay a disproportionate share
of school taxes. He also lists a recent state Senate decision that
overruled a House recommendation that the state take over all school
construction costs as reason to vote against the tax hike. "I voted
no in retribution for that decision," he said.
"A proposal like that never came to a vote in the Senate," said state
Sen. Thurman Adams (D-Bridgeville). "Even if we did that, where is
the money going to come from? The state could pay for everything,
but it is all taxpayers' money. There is no free money."
Pam Miller, whose son Robert is in the first grade at Woodbridge Elementary
and daughter, Amber, is in the fifth grade, is elementary school PTA
president and a member of the Raider Committee. She agrees with Glading
that some children are not respectful. "But I would say this to Mr.
Glading: If he doesn't support the referendum, then that is all he
has to look forward to. A lot of our children don't get good discipline
and structure at home. If we can't give it to them at school, they
are never going to get it."
"Our kids bring a lot of challenges to school today," said Carson.
"For someone to say that school is the same as it was even 20 or 30
years ago, they don't have a good grasp on reality."
"I am a senior citizen," said Hamstead, 60. "I don't have children
in the district and I will never have grandchildren in the district.
But I live in this community and I want to see that children who will
stay here are well-educated and will be able to carry on this community
so that we grow prosperous in the 21st century. I am very disappointed
that people didn't see the need for the referendum."