Created on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 Written by Kraig Hissong, WL-S Superintendent, Urbana
Recently, a community member has argued open enrollment, the practice of accepting students that live outside our district, as a reason to not support the WL-S building project on Aug. 6. This is simply untrue.
West Liberty-Salem, along with most districts in the state, allows open enrollment. Why? Mainly to help us recover tax dollars that are lost due to WL-S students that choose to attend elsewhere. Each year about 100 WL-S resident students decide to enroll in another school district, charter school, or home school. The WL-S Board of Education has approved the open enrollment of students from other districts to make up for the lost tax dollars of these students who choose to attend elsewhere. In addition to that, students are then allowed to open enroll only if an existing teacher/class has room on their class or grade level list. On average, the district open enrolls approximately 150 students each year for a positive difference of about 50 students. These additional 50 students bring with them tax dollars from their community that helps WL-S operate and provide our students with a better education. Last year, open enrolled students provided over $500,000 in tax dollars to our school. This is funding that would have otherwise been lost to another school district or private/charter school if we did not allow these students into our district.
We are fortunate that WL-S provides our students with an education that attracts families from other communities. In fact, WL-S is one of the few districts in the area whose population of students has either maintained or increased in enrollment. A state study has shown that over the next 10 years, our student enrollment is expected to increase by about 100 students.
Remember, additional classroom space in only one important component of the building project for our students. Most of this space is not adding additional classrooms, rather replacing our modular units, and increasing undersized classrooms and instructional spaces, bringing them up to current state standards. Replacement of major building needs (roof, HVAC, windows) are urgent items that must be addressed. Lowering operational costs through newer, more efficient building components, providing school safety, security, technology, and better learning environments for our students are other important reasons why our community should support this levy and take advantage of the state’s 71 percent share of the cost. After August, the state’s share will be reduced by more than $1 million dollars. There is also no guarantee that this funding will be available in the future. In addition, this is the last opportunity to receive the 12.5 percent rollback credit for the property tax portion of this bond levy. Together, these two changes alone could account to over a $4 million dollar increase to local taxpayers for the same project. Voting yes now for the WL-S Building project will save our community millions in local tax dollars then if we wait to address our urgent needs.
To not vote for this building project because of the open enrollment of students would be shortsighted and not reflect the importance of our facility to our students and the community. If open enrollment were to stop tomorrow, we would still need the instructional space and the building would still have all the same urgent needs. This is our school and we must be responsible and take care of it.