After their Dec. 4 operating levy referendum failed by only 18 votes, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School Board members decided Wednesday to give it one more try.
The school district will ask voters once again on Feb. 12 for an operating levy. The board members reached that decision at a board workshop Monday and finalized their plans at a special board meeting Wednesday.
Board members decided that they would ask taxpayers one question, not two, at the Feb. 12 special school board election because there was some confusion among voters during the Dec. 4 election.
This levy question will ask voters for a $550 per pupil unit levy increase for both operating expenses and capital expenses, instead of the Dec. 4 questions which asked for a $500 increase for operating expenses and $100 for capital expenses.
This proposed levy will last eight years, not 10 years, and the polls will be open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. In addition, Hackensack's combined polling precinct will be at the Hackensack Community Center, not at city hall.
WHA Superintendent Wallace Schoeb said that even if the Feb. 12 levy is approved, it might not save the district from having to make about $650,000 in budget cuts for next year. The district is already in the process of having a bill authored that would be introduced to the state Legislature as special legislation so the district would be able to apply the levy to the 2008-09 school year. This bill would have to pass the House and Senate. Otherwise, the levy would be in effect in 2009-2010. Even if the levy does pass and it can be applied to the 2008-09 school year, the district will still have to make about $250,000 in budget cuts. The district is currently in statutory operating debt, or SOD, and is in a three-year plan to get out of SOD. If the levy doesn't pass Feb. 12 the district has to cut $1.2 million from its budget over the next three years. The district also is losing funding through declining student enrollment.
Schoeb said board members, along with the Save Our Schools committee members, felt that they needed to try again to pass an operating levy because the vote was so close and because the inclement winter weather may have prevented many people, especially the yes voters, from heading to the polls on Dec. 4.
Schoeb said he is optimistic about the Feb. 12 operating levy passing.
"You have to be," he said. "It's a lot of work, definitely a lot of work."
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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