Board OKs school levy for May ballot

Clark-Shawnee voters will decide 7.59-mill request.

The Clark-Shawnee School District is going back to voters this spring to seek new money that officials said will help the district avoid further cuts to its staff and programs.

The Board of Education unanimously approved an additional 7.59-mill operating levy for the May 7 ballot during a special meeting Monday night.

It would cost about $232 a year for owners of a home valued at $100,000, according to Tom Faulkner, district treasurer. The 10-year emergency levy would generate about $2.49 million annually, he said.

Superintendent Gregg Morris said the district has made cuts over the last two years that included 12 teachers, an administrator, classified staff, building budgets and the Kindergarten Village, but failure to obtain new revenue would result in further cuts that would “begin to disassemble the district.”

“The fact is we cannot cut our way out of this situation,” Morris said. “We just can’t cut more teachers and provide programming that we (currently) have for students that makes us an “Excellent with Distinction” school.”

“I would just like to add (that) consistently for the last two years we have had, I believe, the lowest or one of the lowest tax rates in the county, and yet our schools consistently perform very well,” Board Vice President Susan Page said.

Voters approved a 7.49-mill renewal levy in November for the district — the only district to do so among six on the ballot in Clark and Champaign counties. That levy renewed three existing levies — two for operating expenses and one for permanent improvements — and combined them into one for future renewals.

It did not raise taxes.

“We made it clear that this was the situation,” Morris said of the district going back to voters six months later for new money. “We were really trying to get the message out there in the fall that this was not new money.”

What the district might cut should the May levy fail hasn’t been decided, but that could likely be made public by March at the latest. Morris told board members he hoped to have the list to them next month.

“It’s a critical issue in that if it’s not successful, we will have over $700,000 to cut out of our budget for next school year,” Morris. “We’re in the process of defining exactly what that will be.”

“We want to be able to show the people exactly what we will be able to do when the issue passes or what we would be able to do if it does not,” Morris said.

“Of course we’ll do everything possible to provide the best we can for students, but we have cut so much out of our budget over the past two years, with class sizes already too large, this is really critical that we can’t cut.”