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District seeking 10-year, 3.95-mill levy

Alissa Widman Neese • Jan 30, 2014 at 11:22 AM

Perkins Schools is back on the ballot once again.

After about two hours of discussion at their third meeting this month, all five board members agreed Wednesday to place a 10-year, 3.95-mill levy on the May ballot.

The measure is the district’s fourth straight attempt to secure new funding from taxpayers.

If approved, the levy would generate $1.68 million annually for Perkins 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 $138 in taxes each year.    

It would also allow board members to restore a moderate amount of programming they cut this past year to balance the district’s dwindling budget. The reductions totaled about $4 million, but restorations could total about $1 million, given the potential levy’s size.

“As much as I’d like to see something higher passed, I think 3.95 might be our magic number,” district parent Richard Uher said.

Perkins Schools levy

• MILLAGE: 3.95 mills

• LENGTH: 10 years

• ANNUAL COST: $138 for owner of $100,000 home

• GENERATES: $1.68 million a year to fund day-to-day district operations, including employee salaries and benefits

About 50 people attended Wednesday’s meeting, which was entirely devoted to levy discussion.

The group helped board members determine what size levy to pursue, as well as what programs should be restored if the district secures new funding.

At a meeting this past week, superintendent Jim Gunner and board members reviewed a spreadsheet listing three categories of programs they could restore with a successful levy, ranked in order of priority.

Recent discussions revealed, however, that two of the community’s top priorities — reducing inflated pay-to-participate fees and completely restoring elementary art and music programming — are in the list’slowest category. A 3.95-mill levy isn’t large enough to restore the entire list.

Still, board members ultimately agreed they had a slim chance of gaining voter approval of any levy larger than 4 mills.

“It’s the job of the board to reach out to the community and garner their support, not just sit here and expect it from them” board member Andy Carroll said. “We need to stay under 4 mills”

Given the community feedback, board members may re-evaluate the restoration list and propose an adjusted list in the next few weeks, board president Matt Kosior said Wednesday.

Perkins Schools is projecting a surplus of almost $140,000 in the current school year, with about $650,000 total in its cash reserve. The reserve and annual funding will carry the district through until the 2017-18 school year, when all its funds will be depleted. The district’s annual budget is about $21 million.

These figures reflect Perkins Schools operating “as is,” however, with all its costly staff and programming reductions still in place.

Board members considered levy amounts Wednesday ranging from 3.5 mills to 7.4 mills, with most community members speaking in favor of the modest levy choice.

“It’s reasonable, it’s responsible, it could allow many things to be restored, and it would still maintain financial viability for our district,” community member Bob Weichel said.

Community members and board members indicated they would like to organize an active levy campaign committee soon to garner support for the upcoming vote on May 6.

Voters haven’t approved a new operating levy for Perkins Schools since 2000.

 

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