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Shawnee considers August ballot issue

District won’t seek new issue if voters approve next week’s levy request.

Clark-Shawnee Local Schools voters next week will decide a request for new operating money. But even before the first votes have been counted, district leaders took steps to Monday to place an issue on the August ballot, if needed.

Clark-Shawnee board members unanimously approved at a special meeting Monday morning the first of two resolutions to place an issue identical to the May levy on the Aug. 8 ballot. Whether they move forward with the second resolution depends on the outcome of the district’s May 7 tax issue.

“This gives us an option to go on in August, if we weren’t to be successful (in May),” said Gregg Morris, superintendent.

Clark-Shawnee voters next week will consider a 10-year, 7.59 mill levy that would generate nearly $2.5 million a year for operations. It would cost $232.44 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Elections deadlines call for issues on the Aug. 8 ballot to be turned in by May 8, one day after the election.

“If the levy fails on May 7, then we’ll come back on May 8 at another board meeting and (vote on) a resolution to proceed,” said Treasurer Tom Faulkner.

In previous years, there was more time to make a decision about the next election cycle after election night. Now, the 90-day filing deadline means the ballot issue is due the day after elections.

Passing the first resolution now leaves the option to put a levy on the ballot in August open to the board. If the levy were to be successful, the district would be able to reverse $700,000 in planned budget cuts for the 2013-14 school year.

“The cutbacks that we have to make are going to be so devastating,” said Faulkner. “We need to do everything we can possibly do to preserve the district.”

Those cuts include instituting pay-to-participate fees, eliminating six teaching positions and half of an administrative position, cutting a bus route and reducing budgets that individual school buildings use to purchase supplies and materials.

“Likely, it would involve at least one teacher in each building and three at the high school,” Morris has said. “All possibilities are on the table. It’s going to impact class sizes and course offerings.”

The district also would implement pay-to-participate fees of $200 per sport/$400 maximum per athlete at the high school and $100 per sport/$200 per athlete at the middle school. It also would institute a $50 flat fee for high school students who participate in one or more clubs and increase student fees by 20 percent.

Morris said the board may still elect not to pursue an August ballot issue, even if the May levy fails.

“I think there’ll be a good discussion as to what we do if this were to fail that morning when we meet,” he said.

The board plans to call a special meeting for the morning after the election to meet the May 8 deadline.

Morris has said the district has acted responsibly in difficult economic times.

“We’ve made substantial cuts over the last two years in the amount of about $3,296,000,” he said previously. “That involves nine teachers, one administrator, about four classified positions, closing the kindergarten village, reducing building budgets. And yet with all the state cuts, and they’ve been over $1,157,000, we are still in a situation of need financially.”

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