will ask voters
for a smaller tax increase
School District will try for a second time to get residents to
approve an increase in the operations tax rate which officials
say is essential to maintaining its existing education program
while beginning to implement a long-range plan to take it to the
proverbial next level.
"I think this will be supported.
We'll know on June 4," superintendent James Scanlon said after
the school board voted unanimously to ask for an increase of 27¢
on each $100 of assessed property value, of which 25¢ would be
imposed in the coming fiscal year and an additional penny in
each of the following two years.
That would be about 35% less than
the 38.2¢ the district sought but nearly 9,200 voters rejected
by a relatively small but decisive 53%-to-47% margin at the
referendum on Apr. 24.
If applied to the current $1.4925
property tax rate, the increase when fully implemented would be
18%. It would boost the current-expense component of that
overall rate by 24.5%.
Scanlon told the board at a
special meeting on Apr. 30 that voter rejection of the new
proposal will necessitate cutting more than $4 million, or about
10%, from locally financed district spending. More than half of
that would come from lay-offs of teachers, administrators and
support staff. In addition, one primary grades elementary school
would be closed.
Even if the proposal is approved,
he said it will be necessary to significantly reduce the
district's excess capacity by closing one or more schools in the
near future. "Our problem is that we have too much space and not
enough students. ... If we don't address this situation, we're
looking at program cuts in [future] years," he said.
Chief financial officer David
Blowman told the board that the proposed 27¢ increase is the
minimum needed to sustain the district. "I believe we can make a
solid commitment [not to seek a further increase] for three
years if that rate is adopted [by the board] and approved by our
community," he said.
The board agreed, six-to-nil,
to seek the increase. Member Sandra Skelly was present for the
first half of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting but left before
the vote was taken.
Although the board did not
formally vote on Scanlon's recommended budget-cutting proposal
nor the parameters within which it was made, discussion
indicated consensus agreement with them.