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Sat, Oct. 31

Williams School District override, one year later

Williams Unified School District (WUSD) has maintained its current class sizes, electives and extra curricular activities thanks to the budget override that voters approved last November.

State law allows school districts to ask for overrides of as much as 15 percent, but WUSD officials chose 10 percent because that was the amount of the district's previous override. The previous override was in effect for about 10 years.

"It is 10 percent of your maintenance and operations budget that the voters say that you can spend extra and that they will support with tax money," explained WUSD Business Manager Melissa Ellico.

The 10 percent maintenance and operations budget override generated $371,298 for the fiscal year 2013 budget and $383,940 for the fiscal year 2014 budget.

The override will be in place for seven years. Williams residents pay for the override through their property taxes. The cost of the override comes out to about $30 per $100,000 of property valuation per year.

"So it's like one Pizza Hut dinner to be able to provide for all of these programs," Ellico said.

The approval of the override prevented several programs from being scaled back or cut.

"Because we had had an override in the past, we had already put these measures into place and when they voted this last November it was just to keep those same measures and programs in place," Ellico said.

The override allowed the district to continue offering full day kindergarten.

In addition, the override allowed the district to continue offering two sections of each grade level at Williams Elementary-Middle School (WEMS). This means the district was able to maintain current class sizes, which vary from about 18 to 25, depending on the birth rate.

"To have smaller class sizes allows kids to get more individualized attention," Ellico said.

The override also helped keep the current course offerings at Williams High School (WHS).

"We would have had to cut electives, because you're mandated to have your math and your sciences and stuff, and so the only thing we would have to cut is electives," Ellico said.

Without the override, the district may have had to cut the amount of dual enrollment classes it offers and would not have been able to hire a K-12 art or music teacher this year. Last year the district had a limited art program and no music program.

Another area the override has supported is the sports programs at WEMS and WHS.

"A lot of districts have what they call pay to play, which means that they charge a fee that will cover the uniforms, the referees, the coaches, and they just divide it up by however many players there are and they say this is how much this sport costs you to play. And we've never done that," Ellico said. "The kids do pay a small sports activity fee, but it's nothing compared to the pay to play that would be required if the override hadn't passed."

Ellico said the district is grateful that the voters supported the override so the schools can continue to offer a comprehensive education.

"These are all things that help not only educate our children in the basics, but it also helps develop a well rounded child to be able to participate in extra curriculars and to participate in art and music," Ellico said.

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