Board shifts part of inside millage

In the end, they must submit to the masses.
Alissa Widman
Nov 14, 2013
In an unexpected move Wednesday, Perkins school board members reversed course on plans to pursue new buildings, and they instead adhered to the majority will of Perkins Township taxpayers.
 
Board members voted 4-1 to return a portion of moved millage — 3.2 mills of 5.2 total mills — back to the district’s operating fund. Newly re-elected board member Terry Chapman voted against the measure.
 
The vote backtracked on a 2011 decision to move the operating funds, called “inside millage,” into the district’s permanent improvement fund, a separate account intended for building projects. The move quickly depleted the district’s operating fund, which is used for salaries and other day-to-day operations.    Voters rejected three tax levy proposals this year to restore the operating fund, most recently on Nov. 5. Many “no” voters said the millage move prompted them to reject the tax levies.

On Wednesday, board members contended the decision to move the millage back was a “political move,” and not the most “fiscally responsible” decision. They discussed the tough choice with almost 100 community members for about two hours.

“This will cost you more money in the long run, but we’re elected by the people to represent the people, and this is what they want,” board president Matt Kosior said. “What you’re asking us to do is a very difficult decision.”

The 3.2 mills was a “comfortable amount” to move, leaving some funds available to repay a district loan to conduct a new building study, Kosior said.

Moving the millage back will return about $1.4 million to the district’s general operating fund each year, superintendent Jim Gunner said. The district will receive about half that amount in the current school year, with the first payment collected in February.

To pursue future building projects and maintain operating funds, voters will still likely need to approve several tax levies or bond issues.

“This is not a long-term solution,” Kosior said.

Board members haven’t determined what they will do with the new operating funds this spring, but it’s possible they could restore some recently cut faculty members or reduce the district’s costly pay-to-participate fees.

Prior to Wednesday’s move, Perkins Schools faced a dire financial dilemma, with only an estimated $23,500 in reserve cash left at the end of the current school year, according to a five-year financial forecast. Its budget is about $21 million a year.

Voters rejected a 10-year, 6.73-mill levy proposal last week, with 61 percent voting against it, according to unofficial election results.

The millage move and the series of failed levy attempts effectively divided the Perkins Schools community, pitting levy supporters and opposers against each other in heated debates.

During Wednesday’s meeting, however, about a dozen individuals on both sides of the issue discussed their views, with most agreeing on at least one thing: the enlightening conversation was long overdue.

“This is the best meeting and back-and-forth dialogue we’ve had in the two years I’ve been on the board,” board member Brad Mitchel said.

Board members cleared up some misunderstandings Wednesday, such as the notion taxpayers voted to create the “inside millage” funds, when the state actually established them in the 1930s for districts to use as they pleased.

Community members Bob Weichel and J Franklin, who voted against the Nov. 5 levy, said Wednesday’s move and conversation was the best way to restore taxpayer trust in the district moving forward.

“Until we stop fighting and labeling each other, nothing good is going to happen,” Weichel said. “This will restore our trust in you. It’s a step in the right direction.”

The millage move was not initially listed on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. Board members amended the agenda following a two-hour closed-door meeting to discuss personnel. A closed-door meeting also followed the regular meeting, with no action taking place afterward.

Comments

fifteenthgreen

Not necessarily for a merger yet but Thomas Paine and I had an interesting discussion on the possibilities of combining resources, building the new campus, influx of revenue, etc. with the merger. In theory, do you think the 42 mills would decrease should a merger occur due to both the city and the township tax revenue being combined? Also, all resource spending virtually will be cut in half. Just an interesting theory.

No negative agenda. Just one that works for all parties involved.

Thomas Paine

I do believe some serious discussions and ideas should be thrown out and explored. There are a lot of good ideas out there that should at least be on the table and reviewed. Everyone can have a different take and I do honestly believe most people want the same things. I just don't think financially the majority of voters truly understand the restrictions on school funding that makes them continuously come back to the community for funds. If everyone did, I think the majority would change their minds about the direction of the board and district. I also think the view of Sandusky School district from those in Perkins is unfair and just as silly as some of the no voters on here.

oldpirate

All the possibilities cost more money. It is a mathematical certainty!

donutshopguy

Old pirate,

If you live longer than today everything will cost more. So what's your point ? The schools are like housing, food, utilities and entertainment ? That was logical .

underthebridge

Thank you!

donutshopguy

My utmost respect to the citizens of the Perkins school system . Standing up for your constitutional rights to control your lives and decide by majority what is best in your school system.

This should be a case study in high school government class on local citizens not abdicating their voting rights to the school board.

Many have died to protect these rights. It's hard to protect these freedoms. It's easy to sell them for money.

Thank you Perkins citizens for taking a tough stand and not selling out your rights through this proposed millage switch.

oldpirate

Man up, pass the levy. there is a series of events that will occur the longer this goes on. The burden on the taxpayer only increases.

fifteenthgreen

The districts hands weren't tied when they were writing checks the district couldn't afford to cash. Now all the millage can't be moved back because they took out a loan without the ability to repay, thus the need for the millage to repay a dead building project. I'd say we have been living beyond our means...especially considering all of this occurred at the tail end of the great recession.

In the past now. We need to continue to look for answers that the majority of the voting public will accept and agree upon.

Thomas Paine

Again agree. The way school funding is set up is pay now or pay later. The real problem in this discussion is not at the local level but rather the state level. I see two distinct choices: 1) by continuing to vote no at the local level a merger is the most likely outcome which equals a higher cost and tax burden to Perkins residents in the short term but in all honesty opens up a lot of growth options for both communities for the future and should be discussed. Or 2) vote no a few more times, get rid of Gunner, BOE members start with new ones, and then vote a new levy in which will be more than the one we could have passed. And will cost the taxpayers millions in the process to get to that end. The majority continues to state they are being fiscally conservative by voting no while wasting millions of tax dollars for the community. In actuality by voting how we have we have lost more tax dollars than we believe this administration has cost us.

middleclassworker

lets do the math

800 k payment over 5 years for a $3.5M loan we didn't want or need ( roughly $ 4 M)

10 year levy with annual income of $2.8 M ( $2.8 x 5 = $14 m) ( $2.8m x 10 = $28 million !!)

Why did we need this large of a levy for a loan we didn't need and why do we need the threat of larger levies to come??

oldpirate

Your opinion does no change anything that will occur.

fifteenthgreen

What will "occur" possibly could have been avoided if the above wouldn't have "occurred".

Thomas Paine

There are a lot of things that could have been avoided. Its time to look forward and not back.

oldpirate

So do we lament that which we can't change or proceed with what we need to. I choose to pass the levy and move on. I am not happy with every decision that has been made. I'm just not willing to destroy the school, community and my pocket book because of them.

Thomas Paine

Right with you oldpirate. I have been a yes voter for exactly those reasons.

Thomas Paine

Oldpirate is correct though Sandusky Schools had 5 people making 100,000+ Perkins has 1 employee. I am not going to disclose who they are because I think its BS posting peoples income online. I also think the community should stop focusing on what peoples salaries are. We need more high paying jobs with college degrees in this community. You cant expect someone with a college degree to come in and agree to take $12 an hour teaching when other teaching jobs in the country are paying 35,000 to 45,000 a year.

middleclassworker

I agree we need higher paying jobs....BUT the highest paying jobs with the best benefits should not be jobs supported from a tax base! Not to mention the majority of these jobs are not year round jobs.

Thomas Paine

I agree they shouldn't be jobs supported by a tax base. The question is how do we fix that. I don't think destroying the schools is the way to do that. Without the schools people wont come here to live. Its one of the top reasons if not the top reason people move to a community.

middleclassworker

What draws anyone to perkins schools right now? Since Gunner has arrived we have successfully separated the community! We have dropped drastically compared to other local schools when comparing school system report card! We paid $ 1.5 M for a stadium to carry the name of the local hospital! We require our student to pay high dollar to play at the stadium. We have somehow placed the school system in to financial distress for many other reasons than just not passing levies!

Gunner needs to go! He has failed the students, athletes, and parents of this school district. The majority of the community has lost trust in the school system administration.

VOTENO

Vote yes.

Thomas Paine

Expand that from 75,000 a year to 100,000 a year Perkins 15 people. Sandusky has 34.

The New World Czar

This makes even more sense for a Sandusky/Perkins merger. Cut the overhead and quit looting through open enrollment.

donutshopguy

The $100 million dollar campus and the $50 million dollar high school were just too big of a burden for most people to accept. Also, the school administration could not explain their financial concepts. The all or nothing approach has given us three failed levies. It's time to learn from our mistakes.

I suggest a building block approach. Offer the voting public a basic school. Give them options. Break out areas such as the gymnasium, natatorium, auditorium, music area and art area. Each would be voted on individually and would not be added unless the voters approved. Like the football stadium, each of these areas could raise private funds to help defer some of the total costs.

It's time to be more creative in our funding and building of our public schools. The old concept of everything or nothing is not valid anymore.

We also cannot rely on the federal or state government to save the day.

Thomas Paine

It would be so much more expensive to do it that way. It costs money to put things on the ballot and make a push for each vote. I would venture to guess you could build everything at once for the price it would cost you to build 3 sections by a piecemeal method. I think most of us are losing or have lost the true meaning of community. I am not an artist nor a musician, If I chose myself to only give money to my interests or had to give money to ALL of my interests the collective cost to me would skyrocket. However if all of us give and collectively pool our resources we can offer things that personally I have no interest in, but I understand that others do and there is a need for things beyond my personal interests. We have completely gone from community minded to individual minded. Its sad.

Nemesis

So, where is Bherrie? Why isn't he here ranting about what an outrage it is that we're allowed to vote on school taxes at all?

Here's how to move forward:

-The boosters and the yes voters start fundraising to pay back the loan taken in pursuit of their minority goals.

-Continue pay to play - stop making people subsidize the recreational preferences of other peoples' kids.

-No more iPads. Issue less costly Android tablets on a means tested basis, e.g. only to students eligible for free lunches.

-Present an honest estimate of school repair costs, from vendors who are NOT in a position to financially benefit more from construction of new buildings, and submit a fixed term capital improvement levy for just those costs.

-Get a new superintendent - this levy vote was effectively a referendum on Gunner's continued tenure. Make residency a hard and fast requirement not subject to waivers - the new super must have a stake.

-Contract out groundskeeping and food service.

-Cut administration. No more PR positions.

-Come clean about teacher compensation - step increases are pay raises.

lifetimeresident

I agree with most of what your saying. But I dont think eliminateing the 10-15 dollar an hour jobs is going to save the money.

Nemesis

Contracting out those services also reduces material and equipment costs. If it takes 2 days a week to cut the schools' lawns, a contractor can be out cutting other clients' lawns the rest of the week and the schools only pass on to the schools the percentage of equipment costs associated with those two days.

underthebridge

Agreed with most everything. Additionally, do not rotate the new technology hardware every 3 years. What a display of extravagance.

Thomas Paine

1) Not going to happen
2) Not a bad idea, however 2 things wrong with this: 1. Every other school around us does offer athletics and other activities. 2. Every college looks at extra curricular activities when reviewing applications. Effectively this move puts every Perkins student at a disadvantage.

3) Agree there are cheaper options- not sure about contracts etc or really any of the details to agree or disagree fully with the idea.

4) This has already been done- nobody wants to believe it, but it has.

5) Well on our way to this end

6) Definitely a possibility

7) Perkins has one of the lowest administrative costs of any school in the area. You can disagree if you want but you can look it up in public records.

8) Union issue- hate the idea of steps always have but they exist in many public sectors and I don't believe they should exist. Convincing the union otherwise is the issue.

Informed

If you want to keep from having a revolving door of employees, which is never good, then step increases are a good thing. People used to get rewarded for their loyalty to their employer because their employer appreciated that loyalty and experience. Now it seems no thinks about that anymore. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being given more money for more experience.

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