Waterloo school levy to be on ballot for 14th time in 6 years

Jack Berney, TV2 Sports Director

Alexandra Golden, Managing Editor

Waterloo School District has not received new money since February 2013. The last levy passage they had was for five years, but the district has made it last for 10, Waterloo School District Superintendent Angela Terella said.

“I believe that a school can be the heartbeat of a community,” Terella said. “I believe that we can support not only our students but our community members.”

The levy is issue 5 on the Atwater ballot Nov. 8 and is a 1.5% earned income tax. If this levy does not pass, the school district will face a $2.5 million deficit in the next two years, Terella said.

“Unfortunately, the district has had to cut some positions,” Terella said. “So we’re hoping to slowly rebuild some of those programs and bring some of those things back.”

Since they have not received new money, cuts have had to be made.

“We don’t have a drama program or choir program,” Terella said. “We don’t have a woodshop program as well.”

Kristen King and her family moved to the district two years ago when her son Aiden was a sophomore.

Aiden attended Waterloo his sophomore year but will finish his high school career at Maplewood, the vocational school in Portage County.

When King moved here, she did not realize the lack of available programs. Aiden likes to sing in choir but no program like this exists.

“They don’t have a speech and debate team. He would love to be on the debate team, they don’t have them.” King said. “They took away the graphic arts programs. So having like, woodshop, and things like that in school, they don’t have those.”

The lack of funding affects aspects outside of the programs.

There have been no field trips for over six years, said Lizette Royer Barton, alum and mother of two children in the district.

“Our high school has no busing, and it probably will never come back. It was cut due to financial stuff,” Royer Barton said. “But like our elementary and middle school, there are two buses that are consistently not running because there’s just not enough drivers.”

Rebecca Beckwith, alum and mother of two daughters who will attend the district, said that she wants better for her kids than she had when she attended, but it seems as though there is less.

“These kids need to have fun and be excited to go to school though, too,” Beckwith said. “And I feel like I had those opportunities when I was in school, you know? We had some more extracurriculars than they’re able to offer now, because we can’t seem to pass a single levy, which is super, super unfortunate.”

If the levy passed, the district plans to expand the programs they have to give more students opportunities. There are no art courses available for the middle school, but with the levy passing they would be able to offer them, Terella said.

“We are committed to bringing STEM offerings down to our middle school grades and our elementary school,” Terella said. “Currently, we have computer science and engineering essentials offered at our high school level.”

The levy has failed in the past for a variety of reasons and Terella knows that everyone’s financial situation is different, she said.

“Taxpayers’ money is extremely valuable, especially in today’s age,” Terella said. “But school districts need to keep up with the times and the programming and it’s essential that we continue to offer our students the best solid curriculum that we can, so they can pursue goals after graduation that are important to them.”

Although there are no programs that King wishes there was, she is still conflicted on how to vote this November.

“I guess I’m torn because I don’t want to be paying on it 20 years from now when I have no affiliation to the school or however long the term of the levy is,” King said. “When I think about the simple amount of money that we would pay year in and year out when it doesn’t seem like the people in the community are vested in sending their students to Waterloo, I don’t see the point.”

Beckwith said there are a lot of people who can not afford the tax and are strapped for money, but a lot of the people who are not voting yes, are selfish.

Royer Barton said the reason the levy keeps failing is because people do not value the education in the community.

“I just think there’s a real lack of support for education,” Royer Barton said. “I think that there are districts around us who are just as rural with just as few businesses, and they can pass levies or they can at least continue to keep programs that we have lost.”

This levy passing is needed to give the students opportunities needed for them to succeed.

“No one wants to pay more taxes, but the children of this community are worth it. They are our future businessmen/women, doctors, farmers, cooks, etc. They deserve more than what they are currently receiving,” Beckwith said. “As well as the staff, they deserve the support of our community. The time is now.”

Alexandra Golden is managing editor. Contact her at [email protected].