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Tecumseh seeks new operating money for 10th time

Officials say it will keep the district from state financial oversight.

Tecumseh Local Schools will go back to voters next month in the hopes they’ll approve the first new operating money in 18 years, and avoid a potential state takeover later this year.

The district is asking for 12.37 mills on the Aug. 6 ballot, which would bring in $3.5 million annually for five years. It’s the same levy voters rejected in May by only 14 total votes, according to the Clark County Board of Elections.

If passed, it would cost the owner of a $100,000 property $432.95 a year.

The August ballot is the next-to-last-chance for the district to pass a levy for new operating funds before the state would begin fiscal oversight of the district.

State oversight could lead to mandates that the district cut programs to state minimums, giving up such treasured programs as ROTC, the district has said.

It’s cut about $8 million from its budget already, according to Treasurer Debra G. Schock, and Superintendent Brad Martin has said it’s nearly at state minimums already.

Schock said the state has declared it will begin working with the district in August.

The Aug. 6 issue is the 10th time since 2004 the district has gone to voters for new revenues, which they’ve declined nine consecutive times. It hasn’t had new revenues since 1995.

According to the district’s current five-year forecast, the district is projected to see a cash deficit of more than $809,000 by the end of 2015, $2.7 million by 2016 and $5.5 million by 2017.

“It takes approximately $2.3 million per month to cover payroll, benefits and operating expenses,”Schock said. “The five-year forecast for 2014 does not have enough unreserved balance to cover 30 days or even payroll.”

The next five-year forecast is due to the state in October.

The district will likely try to pass a levy again in November if the August ballot issue fails, officials said previously.

How a maximum increase in state funding announced recently for Tecumseh schools remains to be seen. The state is still working on the formula, Schock said.

Martin said previously that it’s unknown exactly how the increase will affect its budget because the state hasn’t announced, for example, how Tecumseh’s all-day, every-other-day kindergarten students will be counted, and whether transportation funding is included in the increase or come from someone else.

Martin said passing a levy will be necessary no matter how much it ends up with from the state.

If the state takes over the district, it will loan Tecumseh money to stay afloat but any programs that exist above the state minimum standard could be cut. If that occurs, the district would need a larger levy later on to cover the cost of the state loan, as well as operating costs for the district.

District resident Shonette Holbrook said she’s voting for the levy for numerous reasons.

“If we let our schools fail it will cost us more in the end when no one wants to buy our homes or start their businesses in our area. Having good schools means our community, our businesses, and our property values thrive, Holbrook wrote in a Facebook response to the Springfield News-Sun.

Theresa Alig said she hasn’t made a decision.

“Both sides make compelling arguments,” she wrote.

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