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New levy strategy set

Alissa Widman Neese • Mar 28, 2014 at 11:23 AM

You asked. They listened.

Perkins Schools officials honed a new levy strategy Wednesday, and they’re confident it’s their most voter-centered approach yet.

They unveiled a retooled program restoration list and new cost-saving measures, all contingent on a successful May levy attempt.

The new restoration plans:

•Completely restore fulltime elementary art and music programming.

•Significantly reduce student pay-to-participate fees, to $150 for varsity and junior varsity athletics, $100 for freshman athletics, $100 for high school band or choir and $50 for all clubs. All students would have a fee cap of $400.

To make it happen, they’ll trim about $500,000 from their budget by:

•Likely eliminating 1 1/2 teaching positions from Perkins High School, based on preliminary student schedules, which indicate less demand for certain classes. Similar, minor reductions could take place districtwide.

•Ending the district’s special education contract with North Point Educational Service Center, which provides services to 40 total students with disabilities at Perkins Schools buildings, but only 27 district students. Perkins Schools will now operate the programs in-house. The remaining 13 students can open enroll in Perkins Schools, contract with the district for classes or attend another program.    

•Realigning the district’s athletic department. Athletic director Mike Strohl will become an assistant Perkins High School principal. Athletic secretary Linda Bixler will take over for a retiring high school secretary. Both will take on additional administrative roles and still oversee athletics at the same pay 

•Not restoring one middle school foreign language teacher and two middle school teachers. They had all been on the initial restoration list.

The decisions are based on feedback garnered at community meetings, superintendent Jim Gunner said.

“We had to come up with ways to funnel money to address the community’s two major concerns,” Gunner said. “But if the levy doesn’t pass, things will stay as they are right now. We’ll still make the cuts we can make, but nothing will come back”

The district is proposing a 10-year, 3.95-mill levy on the May 6 ballot, its fourth-straight attempt to secure new funding from taxpayers in a year’s time.

If approved, the levy would generate $1.68 million a year for day-to-day operations, enough to stabilize the district’s budget forthe next five years. It would also provide the necessary funding to restore about $1 million worth of the community’s top programming priorities.

It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $138 in taxes each year.

Perkins Schools levy proposal

•MILLAGE: 3.95 mills

•LENGTH: 10 years

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

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


Board members said Wednesday they couldn’t provide the Register with an official list of programs to be restored because they hadn’t yet talked with all employees who could be impacted by the list’s modifications. The document should be available by next week.

“The new cost-saving measures are significant changes, but they won’t impact the programming we provide our kids in a negative way,” Gunner said. “Everything else on the restoration list, in the first and second priority groups, we will still restore if a levy passes”

Perkins Schools is projecting a surplus of almost $140,000 in the current school year, with about $650,000 total in its cash reserve. By the 2017-18 school year, all its funds will likely be depleted, according to its five-year financial forecast. The district’s annual budget is about $21 million.

These figures reflect Perkins Schools operating “as is,” however, with $4 million in staff and programming reductions from this past year still in place.

Voters haven’t approved an emergency operating levy for Perkins Schools since 2000.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, superintendent Jim Gunner announced his intent to retire from education at the end of his contract with Perkins Schools, which ends June 30, 2015.

High school principal Mark Dahlmann also announced he will retire July 31.

All board members approved both retirement announcements.


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