Woonsocket schools to seek bigger opt-outThe last legislative session’s funding cut of 6.6 percent from K-12 education aid and increasing costs have put the district in a predicament.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
WOONSOCKET — The Woonsocket School Board plans to ask its district taxpayers to support a larger opt-out.
For the last nine years, Woonsocket School District has operated with a $150,000 opt-out, but the last legislative session’s funding cut of 6.6 percent from K-12 education aid and increasing costs have put the district in a predicament, officials contend.
The school board is contemplating a $250,000 opt-out for each of the next seven years. Superintendent Rod Weber doesn’t anticipate the district using the entire amount each year, but said the school is required to use the full amount the first year.
“After that, I hope we don’t have to use it all,” he said.
An “opt-out” means a local government has made a decision to opt out of state-imposed limits on annual property tax increases. An opt-out allows local governments to collect more taxes per year than those limits would otherwise allow.
The board plans to gather public input during a Feb. 13 board meeting. Weber is optimistic that the district’s patrons will be receptive to a larger opt-out, since they’ve supported the school in the past.
Final numbers have not been set for how much a larger opt-out would cost the taxpayers, but should be available at the Feb. 13 meeting, Weber said.
He added that the district has implemented ways to save money in the last nine years, including sharing teachers.
Woonsocket shares speech, agriculture, music and band teachers with Sanborn Central School in Forestburg; a Spanish teacher with Mount Vernon, Sanborn Central and Ethan school districts; and a counselor with Wolsey-Wessington. The board has considered a four-day school week to save money and other sharing options.
“We’re trying to come up with ideas all the time to save money,” Weber said. “It’s come to the point we’ve run out of ideas, and the next thing we share or cut could seriously compromise the integrity of our school.”
The school board is only considering a larger opt-out, he said, and has the option of either passing it by a vote of the board or placing it on a public election ballot. If the board doesn’t place it on the ballot, the public could petition it to the ballot.
“If it doesn’t pass, the school board and administrators and teachers will have to discuss options,” Weber said.
In neighboring Jerauld County, the county commissioners are seeking a larger opt-out of $450,000 for the next eight years to fund road and bridge projects.
The commission will likely put the option to a vote of the people. The cost of the Jerauld County opt-out would be an additional $1.07 of tax per $1,000 of property valuation. The county already has a $150,000 opt-out in place, which would be repealed if a new one is approved.