(SPRINGFIELD, Ky.) – If Washington County citizens vote for the nickel tax on Nov. 8 , the Washington County School District will proceed with using those funds for facilities, according to the district’s facilities plan. The tax, if imposed, which is the equivalent of $.05 per $100 of assessed value for real and personal property, may be matched by the state, thus reinforcing the district’s efforts to provide suitable educational facilities. Currently, the district has $21.4 million in unmet facility needs: $7.8 million for phase II of Washington County High School, $7.3 million to fully renovate the old Washington County High School, $2.1 million to update Washington County Elementary School, $2.7 million to renovate North Washington Elementary School and $891,730 for the bus garage and central office.
“It is essential that the citizens of Washington County realize this tax is bigger than the WCBOE’s decision and that is why it is on the November ballot. Citizens of Washington County must decide what they want for future generations of children,” says Washington County Schools Superintendent Dr. J. Robin Cochran. She went on to say, “I have a great friend who told me a story the other night. She said, ‘My dad says that you plant trees, not for the shade you will receive from sitting under it, but for your kids, grandkids and future generations to benefit.’ When you take time to think about those before us that sacrificed for what we have, you see the value in planning for our future Commanders and Commanderettes.”
While the district had bonding capacity to build a new Washington County High School and partially renovate the old one that will soon become Washington County Elementary School, the funds received from the nickel tax would be used to continue the facilities work in Washington County through restricted monies. The current facilities plan calls for continued renovation at the old Washington County High School building (WCES), to provide updated needs to North Washington Elementary School, to construct a new bus garage and construct a comprehensive sports complex at the new Washington County High School.
With renovations remaining at the old WCHS (WCES), the faculty, staff and students will soon be on the move, which will require funds to begin instruction at the new location. “Technology is a huge part of our daily instruction,” says Dr. Jennifer Miller, principal at WCES. “We will need projectors and SMART boards in all of our rooms next year when we move, because we have that now. Teachers use projectors, iPads, document cameras, computers and SMART boards daily for interactive lessons and online resources from our textbooks and other school safe sites. Last year, we had one-to-one devices in one grade level, and have added a 2nd grade level this year. We plan to have another grade each year. This helps teachers provide individual differentiation for interventions for students – both enrichments and remediation. Additional funds may be used to upgrade a science lab for future WCES intermediate students. Our students learn so much from hands-on activities and labs and a fully functioning science lab to conduct experiments would be a positive influence to increase our student achievement in math, science and technology.”
Built in 1998, NWES is quickly approaching its 20 year anniversary. Ray Kelty, director of maintenance for the district, says the school has several needs and upgrades that are scheduled to take place in the near future. In addition to general maintenance items, the building needs an upgraded waste water treatment plant. There is also a gymnasium heating and air unit that needs to be replaced, an existing problem in several of the buildings in the district. Furthermore, Kelty said there is general maintenance needed, including a new roof and exterior doors that needed to be replaced. “These buildings aren’t getting any younger,” he said.
The use of the restricted nickel tax funds to construct a new bus garage is easy to see when visiting the current bus garage. Paul Terrell, Director of Transportation for Washington County Schools says the biggest concern at the garage is the limited size of the building. “We have two bays which when buses are pulled in for service, there is hardly any room to work around the bus,” he said. “Also, when you put a lift in front or rear of the bus, the entire length of the garage is taken. There are also no floor lifts to raise the buses, which necessitates all service taking place from a mechanic lying on a creeper under the bus.”
The Washington County School District facilities plan also calls for a comprehensive facility at the new WCHS. A comprehensive facility means site grading, a new football stadium, a baseball field, softball field, an 8-lane track and field events, tennis courts and a central field house to accommodate students involved in sports at WCHS. Currently, the Washington County High School Commander football team holds games at the old WCHS football field. The district also rents baseball and softball fields from the local Idle Hour Park, which costs $10,000 per year for rent, and another $10,000 for dirt, seeding and soil conditioner/upkeep. The district will also be partially paying for the hefty additional cost of lighting on these fields in the near future for the continued use of the park. “If you are in favor of the community growing, and putting roots down in this community, you’ve got to be in favor of this tax,” says WCHS head football coach Eric Sagrecy. “This tax will help with facilities for our kids whether they are involved in sports or not. This will not only help students now, but also future generations, [and] they will have something they can be proud of.”
“The nickel tax would be extremely beneficial for the students and families in our district,” said WCHS principal Thad Elmore. “The nickel tax would enable us to provide facilities that will ultimately enhance our academic programs. Better facilities create school pride and creates more opportunities to better prepare students as they move forward into college and/or the career of their choosing. Investing in our future, the youth of Washington County, is an investment in the county’s future.”
Judy Spalding, chief finance officer for Washington County Schools, said the district makes it a matter of practice to be smart with its funding. “Washington County Schools strives to be good stewards of taxpayer’s money,” says Spalding. “Our finance department carefully and intentionally looks for ways to decrease our spending by researching, negotiating with various companies and comparing quality and price. The department continues to strive to save everywhere it can to continue to maintain our services to our students. Washington County Schools staffing levels have remained fairly consistent. Our overall goal is to only spend funds for things needed to provide a quality education for all Washington County students and to ensure our staff have what they need to meet this goal.”
It is important to know that the WCSD does not solely rely on the general fund monies to fund priorities. As many know, there are various “pots of money” that are restricted for certain uses. These monies may only be used for approved initiatives. When the general public questions why money was used in a particular matter, many times it is because the agencies (state, federal and grants) restrict the way they are utilized.
If the nickel doesn’t pass in November, Spalding says the district is projecting that it would take at least eight years to be able to bond approximately $4 million.
For more information on what nickel tax funds can and cannot be used for, visit the Kentucky Department of Education’s website at education.ky.gov .