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Perkins Schools discusses May levy

Alissa Widman Neese • Apr 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM

A Band-Aid can’t close a gash.

But in the case of a budget crisis bleeding Perkins Schools dry, a Band-Aid solution is the best they’ll get this election season.

On Wednesday, an otherwise routine school board meeting morphed into a dollars discussion once again.

Jason Dulaney, a vocal parent, grilled board members about their short-term financial fix: a 10-year, 3.95-mill tax levy on the May 6 ballot.

He said he’ll “never vote no” on a school issue but didn’t shy away from offering an opposing point of view.

Many uninformed voters aren’t aware of how the decreased cash flow has crippled the district, Dulaney said.

“You’re so good at doing your jobs, that from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look like anything has changed” he said. “The community sees that as a mixed message. You say you’re going to make cuts, and then shave a little here and there and find a way to get by”

The May levy is the district’s fourth-straight attempt to secure new funding from taxpayers in a year’s time.

Most recently, voters overwhelmingly rejected an attempt in August.

If approved, the smaller May proposal would generate $1.68 million a year for day-to-day operations, enough to stabilize the district’s budget for the next five years.

It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $138 in taxes each year. Residents in the school district pay $998 a year in school-related taxes today.

A key priority of the May levy is restoring some programming the district eliminated this past year because of budget shortfalls.

Board members shaved about $4 million total from their district’s $21 million budget in 2013. A successful levy would restore about $1 million of those cuts, which includes reinstating full-time elementary art and music classes and lowering student pay-toparticipate fees.

The restorations are largely based on feedback from community members.

But Dulaney, who promoted the district during its past two campaigns, said he’s doubtful the retooled strategy will appease voters, who haven’t approved new funding for their schools since 2000.

He suggested some “tough love” — reducing the district to its absolute minimum standards, until voters understand the detrimental effects of their actions.

Administrators and board members, however, noted that reality isn’t too far off.

Without new funding, the district’s five-year financial forecast projects all its cash reserves will be depleted in less than three years.

“There have been so many cuts, and the people on the outside might not realize it, but the people inside understand,” board member Brad Mitchel said. “This levy doesn’t even address our full operating needs, and it doesn’t address our facility issues at all. But in order to keep operating, we eventually have to pass a levy”

Parent information night Tuesday

Perkins Schools will host a parent information night 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Meadowlawn Intermediate School to illustrate how school funding impacts student performance. The gathering will feature giveaway drawings for those who attend, with a grand prize of an iPod, valued at about $230. District administrators Chris Gasteier, Halley Leffler and Paul Daugherty will lead the discussion about student achievement and answer questions.

The Register will provide more information about the event when it’s available.

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

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