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Board places levy on ballot

Alissa Widman Neese • Jan 29, 2014 at 11:00 AM

It’s official: Norwalk Schools officials placed a tax levy on the May ballot.

At a brief meeting Tuesday, all five school board members agreed to move forward with their “five for five” levy plan, a five-year, nearly 5-mill emergency operating levy.

If approved, the levy would generate $1.5 million annually for Norwalk Schools day-to-day operations, enough to stabilize its budget for the next five years.

It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $175 in taxes each year.

Norwalk Schools is facing a $1.8 million deficit at the end of the current school year and a $879,000 deficit in the upcoming school year, according to its fiveyear financial forecast.

The district has been deficit spending for quite some time and is set to spend all its reserve cash by 2017. Its annual budget is about $24 million.

If a majority of voters don’t approve the levy on May 6, board members and superintendent Dennis Doughty are poised to approve about $1 million in reductions to balance the budget.

The cuts will likely include eliminating six teachers, eight teachers’ aides and one administrative assistant, as well as moderately increasing student pay-toparticipate fees.

It’s a grim possibility, as voters haven’t approved a new operating levy for Norwalk Schools since 1991.

About 10 people attended Tuesday’s 20-minute meeting, and discussion was sparse.

The only public comment came from a longtime district employee, who spoke out against the proposed cuts to educational aides, which she considers a threat to her job.

“I had all of your children in the library at some time, I believe, and I hope I instilled in them my own love of reading” said Sandra Meagrow, who said she is the only library aide at Maplehurst and Pleasant elementary schools. “I hope you consider my job important enough to keep it”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, board members agreed to pursue “blizzard bags” for future weather-related cancellations.

As of Tuesday morning, the district had used eight calamity days this winter, which is three more than its allotted five. Students must now make up one day of classes on Presidents Day and two at the end of the school year.

If the Norwalk Schools teachers union approves the measure, “blizzard bags” would allow students to complete work at home for up to three days, to avoid extending the school year any further.

The district missed the deadline to use them for any existing canceled days, but could use them in the future, Doughty said.

Norwalk Schools levy

• MILLAGE: 4.95 mills

• LENGTH: 5 years

• ANNUAL COST: $175 for owner of $100,000 home

• GENERATES: $1.5 million a year to fund day-to-day district operations, including employee salaries and benefits

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