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Norwalk Schools discusses levy options

Jessica Cuffman • Jan 15, 2014 at 12:27 PM

There will be a levy on the ballot for Norwalk Schools voters this spring.


But what exactly it will be is yet to be settled.

School board members spent more than half of their two-hour meeting Tuesday night discussing their options after hearing a three-tiered proposal from superintendent Dennis Doughty about proposed combinations of cuts and new revenue.

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His ideas included everything from starting an alternative learning program to retain students in the district to keep the state contributions that now go elsewhere, to in the worst case cutting up to six teachers and reducing hours for classroom aides.

While board member Rob Ludwig was ready to consider one option of placing a nearly 5-mill levy before voters that would bring in about an additional $1.5 million each of the next five years, other board members were unsure.

“I can sell this,” Ludwig said.

Ralph Ritzenthaler, selected as vice president of the board Tuesday, was hesitant to move forward with a vote.

“We don’t need a Band-Aid. We need a cure,” he said.

A 5-mill emergency operating levy would keep the district afloat and start to ever-so-slightly rebuild the disappearing rainy day fund Norwalk Schools has relied on in the past five years to cover its costs with declining income figures.

This year’s five-year forecast places the 2014 fiscal year general fund income at about $22.4 million, falling short of covering expenses by about $1.8 million.

The district’s savings would cover the difference.

But it’s a short-term solution to an ever- present problem.

Voters haven’t approved an operating levy for the district since 1991.

After listening to Doughty’s proposed cuts and ideas for where to bring in more money, the board decided to reconvene Jan. 21 and Jan. 28, to hold necessary votes on levy proposals to meet filing deadlines.

At the next meeting, they’ll hammer out the final plan: Where cuts will be made, and what money they’ll be asking voters to contribute.

In the meantime, Doughty will prepare outlooks for what a 6-mill and 7-mill levies would bring in, as well as how an income tax proposal could help the district.

Whatever the board’s decision next week, the district is at a pivotal point.

“Desperation has entered in” Doughty said.

In other business, the board elected John Landrum to serve as president this year, and new member Kevin Cashen was sworn in.

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