Taxpayers might have the chance to decide if they want to buy into an elementary school Spanish program.
School Superintendent Tommy Price recommended to the school board at its meeting Tuesday night that the question be put on the July 20 primary election ballot.
"Before a local board attempts to take on something of this enormity and this expense, it might be appropriate to ask our public," Price said. "The cost will be born totally by local taxpayers, and there will have to be a property tax increase to support the program."
While the state does partially support a pilot elementary foreign language program at Stevens Creek Elementary School, for the past two years school officials have studied implementing the program in all of the county's elementary schools.
"All of the school councils see a purpose for elementary foreign language, and the place to start is probably there," Price said.
With the state already in a budget crisis, funding to support a full-fledged elementary foreign language program will not likely come soon. The state does supply money for enrichment programs such as art, music and physical education, but the school system is already spending more than the state provides.
Price said taxpayers should be aware that funding the program could mean a millage increase of 1 to 1 1/2 mills.
The program would cost about $4 million if foreign language instruction were offered every day for 30 minutes and about $2.5 million if it were offered three days a week for 30 minutes.
"Anything you take on at taxpayers expense needs to be a highly valued program, because there won't be much left for many other improvements," Price said. "We need to make sure before we take on this expenditure that this is something the public wants."
The next step, he said, would be to formulate the ballot question, which would have to be approved by the board and submitted to the Board of Elections by May 3 to appear on the primary ballot. He said as long as it remained neutral, the school system could fund a campaign to educate the public on the issue before the question appeared on the ballot.
"It's going to take a tax increase," Price said. "You can't get around it. There is no way to fund it out of our reserves. You might could get by for a year, but then what are you going to do?"
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.