Westfield schools plan May referendum to pay for construction projects

January 6, 2017

Westfield Washington Schools plans to ask taxpayers for more funding this spring to cover the costs of $90 million in construction projects.

The growing district’s school board voted Tuesday to hold a special election May 2 to ask homeowners for a tax hike of 30.79 cents per $100 of assessed value of their houses. For a home valued at $200,000, property taxes would rise $301 annually under the proposal. For a home valued at $300,000, taxes would rise $501.

The school district now needs 500 signatures from residents to place the referendum on the ballot.

School leaders say the referendum is needed to expand and maintain existing facilities.The tax hike would generate about $7.6 million annually to pay for expansions and renovations at Westfield High School ($42.1 million), Westfield Middle School ($16.7 million) and Westfield Intermediate School ($7.1 million). It would also cover $24 million in district-wide renovations.

Enrollment in the school district has grown 45 percent over the past decade, to 7,590 students in 2016.

Westfield High School was built in 1997, and additions were made in 2003, 2005 and 2010.

Westfield Middle School West was built in 1967 as a high school and converted into an intermediate school in 1997. Westfield Middle East was built in 1976 and expanded in 1992. In 2006, the east and west buildings were combined.

Westfield Intermediate School was built as an elementary school in 1961 and expanded in 1988. In 2003, it became an intermediate school and more additions were made in 2006 and 2007.

The district also includes six elementary schools that were built from 1994 to 2009. Several have been expanded already or will be this year.

As of September, most of the buildings were within 100 students of hitting capacity, including Westfield High School, Westfield Middle School, Carey Ridge Elementary School, Maple Glen Elementary School and Oak Trace Elementary School.

But after surveying the existing facilities and considering enrollment trends, officials decided that building a second high school wasn’t necessary or financially possible and building an additional elementary school may not be necessary either, which is why the funding will instead go toward expansions and renovations.

“This option will allow the district to be creative with learning space and address many of the desires raised to build upon Westfield Washington’s ability to provide a robust and enriching learning experience,” Superintendent Sherry Grate said in a written statement.

Last year, was a successful year for school referendums across the state, including in Westfield.

In November, Westfield voters supported a tax hike of 20 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is expected to generate $5.5 million annually for seven years to pay for operating expenses. That was lower than a tax rate approved in November 2010, which required residents to pay 23 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Revenue generated from operating referendums cannot be used to pay for construction projects like the ones Westfield Washington Schools is proposing.

Statewide, all but three of 20 ballot questions regarding school funding were approved in the primary and general elections in 2016.


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