Perkins schools plan August levy

PERKINS TWP. The Perkins School Board will ask district voters for financial help sooner rather than
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

The Perkins School Board will ask district voters for financial help sooner rather than later.

The district plans to put a levy on the ballot -- likely a replacement of an old levy -- in August.

Some school supporters hoped they could defer a levy to a later election, when a better economic environment and emotional climate might prevail. But board members said Tuesday night that the district can't afford to wait.

The auditor is certifying the board's request. Once the auditor verifies the millage, the board can vote to put a 7.9-mill replacement levy on the August ballot.

The levy equates to an additional 4-mills of taxation, which would bring in another $1.4 million for the district.

Tax payers who have a $100,000 home will pay a total of $122.61 for the replacement levy if it passes.

A replacement levy restores a previously approved levy to its original effectiveness. Over time, effective millage rates decrease.

A panel met a week ago to discuss the district's financial fate. At the end of the debate, the majority of people in attendance said they preferred to wait and put a levy on the ballot in February 2008 when the climate in the district improves and the results of teacher arbitration are final. By then, the district would be deficit-spending and the state would have likely instituted fiscal watch.

Timing a levy is a delicate matter for the district with the arbitration settlement expected by May 15, a budget projection of going into the red by fiscal year 2009 and a deadline of May 21 to be on the August ballot.

"Timing is what this whole discussion comes around," said Terry Chapman , board member. "There is no perfect time to do this. The only thing realistic to do is time this based on what we know."

Tuesday night he and other school board members realized they don't have the luxury of time and must take action now to improve the district's finances.

"If you wait until February 2008, you have to start a reduction plan, you can't survive it without reducing," said Chris Smith, board member.

Smith said that he understands the hesitation to put a levy on the ballot, but as a board, the financially responsible position is to take action.

One concern is the short period of time to educate voters on why the levy is necessary.

Chapman said if the district waits, they will likely be negotiating a new contract with teachers in the middle of asking for a levy.

"I don't think the community wants to see us trying to run a levy campaign and negotiations at the same time," he said.

A levy won't necessarily save the school from staff cuts.

Perkins teachers union spokesman Bob Myer reminded the board it has been seven years since the district passed a levy and only three years since it made staff cuts.

"Perkins already sits 10 to 12 teachers under the state district average for similar-sized districts, where do you cut more teachers?" he said.

"The first round of cuts were difficult but doable. The second round of cuts will devastate the district for years to come," Smith said. "Once they're gone, they don't come back."

Jeff Lococo, a district resident, told board members they're going to have to "change the culture of the district" if they go forward with an August vote.

If the levy passes in August, it will keep the district afloat at it current operation levels for two years.

The board says it is aware it will have to return to the voters in the future, but is taking the small steps approach rather than asking for a large sum all at once.

The board will meet again once the auditor has certified the millage to make a formal motion to put the levy on the ballot.