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OPINION: Issue 121 moves Westlake forward and won’t increase taxes

(Editor’s note: Westlake City Schools Superintendent Scott Goggin submitted this guest column in support of Issue 121, a single ballot issue consisting of both a 1.3-mill bond measure and a 0.8-mill permanent improvement levy. The 33-year bond issue will raise $33.6 million to build a new elementary school for students in preschool through grade four to replace the district’s four current elementary schools. The permanent improvement levy is a continuing tax that will raise approximately $1.14 million annually to maintain the district’s facilities and pay for capital improvements. A 2.43-mill bond tax expires at the end of this year, so if Issue 121 passes, those 2.43 mills would be replaced with a 2.1-mill combined issue, resulting in no net tax increase to residents.)

By Scott Goggin
Guest columnist
Westlake City Schools Superintendent

Our elementary schools are old, inefficient and no longer conducive to today’s educational standards. In fact, our elementary buildings do not meet state minimum standards in classroom size, access to technology, plumbing, heating and cooling, or safety and security. Every year, we spend a significant amount of district revenue on emergency repairs to these aging, failing systems- funds that are needed for classroom instruction.

We have an excellent opportunity with Issue 121 to replace the four elementary schools with one centrally-located building for grades Pre-K through 4th grade. This new facility would be built to accommodate all of our youngest citizens, with age appropriate separations and shared space and resources.

With our enrollment and revenue stream, we simply cannot sustain four Pre-K through 4th grade schools in the long run. Regardless of the outcome of Issue 121, there will be reductions. One or more schools will close in the near future because we must balance our budget. Issue 121 will allow us to consolidate from four buildings to one, which will reduce operating expenses by more than $1 million every year, while building a new, efficient school to meet the educational needs of Westlake’s families. It also allows us to make this transition over a 3-year period.

Issue 121 is a 1.3 mill bond issue and 0.8 mill permanent improvement levy that will ensure all of Westlake’s students are in modern spaces designed and equipped to deliver modern instruction. The issue also creates a separate fund for safety, security, transportation needs and building maintenance to protect the public’s investment in the schools. Due to a unique scenario involving expiring millage, sound financial practices and refinancing, Issue 121 will not increase taxes but will generate the revenue we need to remain financially solvent.

This issue is not only fiscally prudent, but it is educationally sound. By streamlining elementary school instruction, we can ensure that all of Westlake’s students receive access to the same curriculum, support services and resources. The new elementary schools will have upgraded educational technology, modern safety and security measures, and improved classroom environment such as size, temperature, natural light and air quality.

It is up to us to provide the schools our children and families need to succeed. Issue 121 keeps us moving in the right direction, and will not raise taxes. Meanwhile, it will save over $1 million EVERY year.

 

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