The Washington School Board is moving forward with a two-question ballot proposition for the April 2013 election.
The vote Wednesday night followed a special board meeting last month when members discussed at length whether to place one question for approval of a $49 million bond issue with a 25-cent tax increase on the ballot or break the proposal into two questions.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer told the board she favors the two questions to give voters more say, but ultimately hopes patrons approve both.
Board members agreed that a two-part proposal may be more appealing to patrons.
Board member Rick Rehmeier did ask VanLeer if the ballot language could be changed slightly in Question 2 to reflect the total levy rather than the estimated increase of the debt service levy.
VanLeer said she would check with legal counsel about the wording change, but the board went ahead and voted to approve the language with the contingency for the word change.
The first question will ask patrons to approve a $9 million bond issue with a no-tax rate increase for wireless infrastructure for classrooms district-wide, construction of an early childhood center, an addition at Marthasville Elementary and HVAC improvements at Augusta Elementary.
The second question will be for approval of a $40 million bond issue with a 25-cent tax increase to construct and equip a new middle school on the now vacant property the district owns on east Highway 100.
VanLeer stressed the district is still seeking the sum total of $49 million and approval of both questions provides the most relief in terms of space for the district.
If a new middle school is built, it would serve sixth, seventh and eighth grades, freeing up space at all eight elementary schools which currently house sixth grade.
The current middle school would then be utilized as a temporary elementary school until a new K-five school can be built. The district also would consolidate Fifth Street and South Point schools at this site.
However, if voters approve only the first question — the $9 million bond issue which does not require a tax rate hike — a new middle school will not be built.
The district would still be able to address some of its technology needs, VanLeer said, which is critical with new state assessments on the horizon that will require all testing to be done online.
A new early childhood center, which the district plans to seek partial reimbursement from the state on, also would be built bringing all of the district’s early learning programs under one roof, including the in-town preschools.
Currently, early childhood special education is located in trailers on the Washington West campus and the Parents as Teachers program is located in the Technology and Learning Center. Preschool is offered at various elementary schools.
The early childhood center would be built on the Washington West Elementary campus off West Highway 100.
VanLeer said the trailers could still remain at Washington West if the middle school proposal fails due to space constraints. The trailers may be needed for kindergarten to deal with overflow at that school.
Both the $9 million and $40 million bond issues require a 57.14 percent majority to pass. If the district were to run the proposals in August or November, they would require two-thirds majority to pass.
This will be the district’s second attempt to pass a bond issue. Last April, voters rejected a $65 million proposal and 46-cent tax hike. That plan also included construction of a new elementary school, as well as some renovation projects at Washington High School, which have been eliminated.