BLOOMINGDALE - The Jefferson County Joint Vocational School needs an additional 1-mill levy to pay for much-needed roof replacement as well as laboratory upgrades, Superintendent Dale Edwards said.
"There are only two other school districts in the state that have lower millage than we have, that's all schools," Edwards said. "It has been that way since 1994, when an additional operating levy was approved. We figure we've been pretty good stewards of taxpayer money to go that many years without asking for more."
Edwards said changes in the state tax code and the loss of roughly $500,000 a year in revenue put the school in a fiscal bind.
"We need to upgrade equipment and renovate labs," he said. "We need to have students work on equipment that they'd use out in the workplace. We need to train them so they're able to make the transition very quickly from school to worksite."
Likewise, he said changes in the local work force means the JVS needs to look at new and expanded training opportunities.
A 911 dispatch simulation system, for instance, would give students studying criminal justice more marketable skills; the same would be true of additional training opportunities in welding, a high-demand field.
"Without passage of the levy, we won't be in position to make that commitment," he said.
And a new roof is a high priority, he added. It could cost as much as $1.6 million, possibly more, to replace the school's 100,000-square-foot roof.
"What we've done in the last couple years is a Band-Aid approach," he said. "We bring companies in and repair an area, replace the tile and insulation. Every time we have a roofer come in and make repairs, they tell us the same thing - that we've reached the point where we need to repair, not patch it. But, because of the cost, we're not in a position to be able to do it unless we can pass the levy."
JVS officials have said the proposed levy on the Nov. 6 ballot would cost a taxpayer with a home valued at $70,000, which is considered average, "about a nickel a day."
"I know we've failed a couple times now to convince the majority of people how badly we need the levy, but it is extremely important," he said. "We know the economy is not the greatest, consumers have to watch how they spend their dollars, but we see this as an investment in the future. It's a very important part of economic development - one of the things businesses look for is a skilled work force."
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)