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Board to seek levy on May ballot

Alissa Widman Neese • Dec 23, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Perkins Schools officials will likely pursue another tax levy on the May ballot.

Before they finalize any plans, however, they’re actively seeking community input on the matter.

The district will host a series of public meetings in January to discuss its options:

• 6 p.m. Jan. 8, for a regular board meeting.

• 6 p.m. Jan. 20, for levyrelated discussion.

• 6 p.m. Jan. 29, to approve placing a levy on the ballot.

All gatherings will be in room 805 of Perkins High School.

To place a levy on the May ballot, board members must approve two separate resolutions by Feb. 5.

If approved, the measure could restore some of the $2 million in detrimental cuts made earlier this year, superintendent Jim Gunner said at a board meeting this past week.    

“These are tough decisions on the part of the board and community moving forward,” Gunner said. “It’s not just as simple as determining what dollar amount. This is tied to our programming and services we provide for our children”

Perkins Schools is projecting a $139,600 surplus in the current school year, with about $645,900 total in its cash reserve. The district’s reserve cash is projected to carry it through until the 2017-18 school year. Its annual budget is about $21 million.

These figures indicate Perkins Schools operating “as is,” with all costly reductions still in place, treasurer Lisa Crescimano explained.

The cuts include eliminating about a dozen teachers, increasing pay-to-participate fees to $365 for each high school sport, and reducing health, art, music, computer and physical education programming. High school pay-to-participate fees were previously $35. Fees for clubs, dual enrollment courses and sports for younger students also increased.

“We’re a bare bones district right now, and there are very few things we can do further locally, in terms of reductions, that won’t put us at fundamentally state minimum standards” Gunner said.

The reductions were the result of the district’s inability to secure new funding in recent years.

Voters rejected three Perkins Schools emergency operating levies at the polls this year: a 10-year, 4.98-mill attempt in May and a 10-year, 6.73-mill attempt in August and November.

Many “no” voters cited the district’s desire to pursue a new school building as a reason for rejecting the levies.

In 2011, board members moved a portion of its operating funds, called “inside millage” into a separate account used for building projects.

The move quickly depleted the district’s operating fund, which is used for salaries and other day-to-day operations. Voters refused to approve a levy to restore the fund. Projections indicated it would be depleted it to a mere $23,500 by the end of this school year.

After the November levy failure, board members abandoned plans for a building project and returned a portion of the funds back into the operating fund. The move will return about $1.4 million to the fund each year, with the first payment collected in February.

A May levy would be the district’s first attempt since the move, and the first to strictly address district programming in recent years.

“We feel strongly that some of these cuts are significantly impacting education,” Gunner said. “As we start planning the next levy attempt, we need to discuss with the board what we should be restoring moving forward”

Perkins Township voters haven’t approved a new operating levy for the district since 2000.

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