Superintendent answers questions about West Grand’s mill levy override

Elizabeth Bauer
West Grand School District Superintendent

West Grand School District is going for a mill levy override in the upcoming election. It is Ballot Issue 5A. We have informed various groups around the community as well as held an open Town Hall meeting. However, I would like to take this opportunity to answer some of the questions we have heard throughout these presentations.

1. How much is the mill levy?

The mill levy override is for 4.525 mills which would garner $550,000 annually for the school district.

2. What are you going to do with the money if this ballot issue is successful?

“Deposit in the districts general fund for educational purposes to be approved by the board of education, including, but not limited to improvement of school security, maintenance and enhancement of instructional programs, maintenance and enhancement of instructional technology, recruitment, training and retention of high quality teachers and support staff by maintaining competitive salaries and benefits; and capital needs and improvements and maintenance of facilities..” (taken directly from the ballot).

3. Why salaries and benefits?

Our staff salary and benefits schedule is far behind our immediate school districts as well as close school districts our size. We want to keep quality, certified staff members as well as attract potential employees.

4. Who will get this benefit?

Salary and benefit increases are for teachers and support staff including: classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, food service workers, maintenance workers, custodians, bus drivers, administrative assistants. This does not include administrative salaries.

5. What are your staffing shortages?

Current open positions at West Grand include: High school special education teacher, high school stem/computer science teacher, middle school math teacher, middle school paraprofessional, custodians, and bus drivers. West Grand also eliminated several positions two years ago due to budget cuts including both schools’ library paraprofessionals and extra stipends for various clubs, groups, and activities for sponsors.

6. Why maintenance/technology/safety?

Safety is a high priority for both students and staff members. We were able to purchase a new camera system through our ESSR (COVID relief funds — which has stipulations on how it can be spent) grant. Other safety measures need to be looked into in the future.

Technology has become an integral part of education, both inside the classroom as well as with remote learning. Again, through our ESSR dollars, we were able to ensure that all students, K-12, has access to a technology device.

Even though we have beautiful facilities, we need to make sure that we keep them beautiful for future generations. The high school was built in 1976 and has had no major additions (we’ve had several updates). We moved into the K-8 in 2006, but the facility is close to 20 years old. Over the past several years, there have been many deferred maintenance projects that are now demanding attention.

We have been able to fund the high school HVAC work through our ESSR dollars as well. The high school would not have had heat this winter if this project wasn’t completed.

7. Grants?

As you can see, we have been using grant money to fund major projects for the health and safety as well as for educational benefits for our students and staff. Grants are one-time monies that can have restrictions on how that money can be used. The ESSR funds referenced here had very specific restrictions. West Grand will continue to look for grant funding to supplement our general budget, but we cannot become grant dependent as grants are not guaranteed. We want to secure the financial security of our district for the short and long term.

8. What projects may be funded?

Examples of some of the major projects include:

• Aging boilers at the high school.

• HVAC at the K8 building. It is operating on an old, outdated system.

• High school boys locker room urinals, of which have not worked for at least the past six years.

• High school stadium outside bleachers. They are not ADA compliant, wood is rotting, and we have, unfortunately, had several people fall through the cracks.

• Better accessibility and compliance with ADA regulations throughout the district.

• Update on Community Park area.

• Parking lots need to be resealed and painted.

• K-8 building north side ice mitigation.

• Transportation garage needs a new roof, painted.

9. Can you be very specific about exactly the money that will be spent where?

We will not spend money/plan to spend money until we are successful with this ballot issue. I do not want to give an exact dollar or percentage amount for the projects as budgeting is a process for our district. The amount of money specified for the different uses of the money will go through the budget process, through salaries and benefits committee, input from our stakeholders, and capital planning.

10.What happens if this ballot issue is not successful?

If this ballot issue is not successfully passed this year, we will not be able to be comparable with surrounding district salaries, pay for much needed facility repairs and maintenance, or focus on building up our reserve funds as set forth in state requirements and WGSD board expectations. We are already operating on a stretched budget and staffing. Without this money, we will have to continue working on scarcity and could possibly mean cuts in personnel, creative scheduling/more sharing of teachers, and/or more deferred maintenance. We could possibly lose great staff members to higher paying positions within our own community as well as surrounding communities.

11. What does this benefit me if I don’t have any kids in school?

I truly believe in “better schools, better communities.” While that is a catch-phrase, it is more than that. Having safe, healthy, and thriving schools provides a safer community as well as support in producing viable members of society upon graduation where students can contribute to our community whether it be in workforce or otherwise.

12. What can we do in the community?

VOTE. Register and check your registration status on the county website at Talk with your social circles about this issue and how it may benefit our entire community.

If you have any questions about the mill levy override or any other school related issues, please feel free to reach out to me to have a conversation!

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