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Published: Thursday, 11/16/2000

Springfield schools to try for levy again

Springfield Local schools will go back to voters in February to ask approval of an 8.9-mill tax proposal, the same measure voters narrowly rejected a week ago.

In a 5-0 vote, the board of education decided to put a single proposal on the ballot asking for a renewal of a 4.9-mill operating levy and an additional 4 mills, also for operating expenses. The tax measure, to be decided at a special election on Feb. 6, would remain in effect for four years, if approved, beginning Jan. 1, 2002.

Keiran Menacher, board president, said she had no hesitancy about returning to voters with the proposal so soon after it was defeated. Preliminary results showed the measure lost 4,675 yes to 4,791 no. “We need the funding,'' she said. “The only way to get it is to go to the voters.''

The district has cut its expenses to stretch revenue from the existing 4.9-mill levy that is due to expire Dec. 31, 2001. About a year ago, 10 teaching positions were eliminated through attrition and other expenses trimmed, netting a $500,000 savings.

But the downside to that has been larger class sizes, she said.

“No, at the end of 2001 we won't have a deficit. But our teachers, we don't know where they stand,'' Ms. Menacher said. “We will not be able to give them a raise they justly deserve. We can balance the budget, but whether we will be in business - I can't answer that.''

The last raise for teachers was a 3 per cent wage increase in September, 1999. The teachers' current labor contract was extended by mutual agreement until Dec. 1. The contract was set to expire Sept. 1.

Besides teacher and staff salaries, the millage is sought to improve student reading and math performance, improve the technology curriculum, and reduce class sizes.

The combined tax measure would generate $5.1 million a year for four years. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

At the urging of board member Kenneth Musch, the 4.9-mill portion will be a renewal rather than a replacement levy. That move effectively means the millage will be figured on current property valuations, board Treasurer Robert Moellenberg said.

The 4 mills of additional tax revenue will be based on the county auditor's property reappraisals that take effect in January. Mr. Moellenberg estimated the special election will cost the district about $15,000.

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