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Back to the ballot

Alissa Widman Neese • Nov 30, 2014 at 7:19 AM

The Perkins Schools board agreed Wednesday morning to place a 10-year, 6.73-mill levy on the August ballot. The decision came less than 24 hours after voters overwhelmingly rejected a 4.98-mill proposal.

The state auditor’s deadline to place levies on the August ballot was 4 p.m. Wednesday. District treasurer Lisa Crescimano had certified three levies with the auditor this past week: a new permanent improvement levy, an identical 4.98-mill levy and the 6.73-mill levy.

Voters approved a 2-mill permanent improvement levy Tuesday, a renewal, leaving the district with the latter two choices for August. The auditor’s recent property re-evaluations estimate the district will lose an additional $400,000, doubling its projected deficit to about $1 million for the coming school year, Crescimano said. The district’s budget is about $23 million.

In early April, board members approved $12 million cuts for the next four years. They’ll now meet twice this month to discuss and possibly approve additional cuts. A closed-door meeting is slated for 7 p.m. May 16 in the high school’s administrative service center. A public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 29 in Room 805 at the high school.

Board president Matthew Kosior opened a second meeting Wednesday night with a statement about Tuesday’s election. He highlighted several “divisive issues” within the district, including approving an open enrollment policy, moving inside millage into the permanent improvement fund and employing a superintendent who does not live within the district.

Kosior urged everyone to research the issues during the upcoming campaign and ask questions if necessary.

“We understand there are key issues people disagree with,” he said. “But as we put this next levy on the ballot, we ask that people please consider the facts. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own facts.”

About 30 people attended the meeting, but only two spoke about the levy.

Perkins Township resident Ralph Roshong, a regular vocal opponent of the levies, continued to criticize the board’s 2011 decision to move inside millage from its operating fund into its permanent improvement fund. He suggested the board move the millage back and stop its plans to pursue a new school building.

The comments led to heated debate between Roshong and Kosior. 

If the district moved its millage again, it would need to get voters to approve two levies in the future — one to stabilize finances, the other to address facility needs with new construction or significant renovations, Kosior said. The district would also be unable to access the moved funds until next year, which would not fix this year’s finances.

“Although moving millage back may politically be a better move, fiscally, it’s not,” Kosior said. “You’re suggesting we propose nearly 14 mills of levies to voters. Do you think that will pass versus the 4.98 we just proposed?”

Township resident Rick Uher, a levy supporter, suggested board members and levy committee members better educate voters about testy issues, including what he called a “fiscally responsible” inside millage move.

“I don’t want taxes as much as the next person, but people of Perkins need to face the reality that something needs to be done,” Uher said. “Whatever is our proposed best plan, we need to make sure everyone in the community understands it so we can move on.”

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