Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Swanton schools consider options

SWANTON - For financial recovery after the defeat of an operating levy, Swanton schools would need more than the 1 percent income tax that failed this week, Treasurer Jeff Price told a hushed, standing-room- only crowd of more than 400 last night.

The district would need both the 1 percent income tax and a one-year, 8.3-mill tax to have a positive balance by June of 2006 without making more cuts. Catching up by 2006, however, would mean keeping in place the cuts already made.

Or, the second levy could be a two-year, 4.25-mill tax issue to catch up by June, 2007.

More money would be needed in part because the schools would not start receiving funds from a levy passed next year until long after it would have started collections if this week s levy had passed. Also, Superintendent Kevin McQuade said the schools likely face more state budget cuts.

Both of those tax request scenarios assume that a 6.96-mill property tax expiring next year would be renewed. The tax has been renewed before and is collecting at 4.67 mills.

If that tax is not renewed, the school board then would need a total of about 20 mills without making more cuts. That would be the equivalent of about $660 a year in taxes on a $100,000 property, Mr. Price said.

At that announcement, the crowd buzzed with whispers of the unlikelihood of the district passing such a levy. Tuesday s income tax request was the third new operating levy request voters denied this year. Final, unofficial results showed this week s income tax failing by 54 votes, with a tally of 1,603-1,657.

The school board is expected to decide next month on a levy request for the March 2 ballot.

Dozens of people in the audience addressed the school board, many giving emotional speeches, before the board left the room to meet privately.

Bill Pilliod asked the board for one week to try to raise money privately for winter extracurricular activities. Board President Bill Green asked him to report on his progress at a special meeting he set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the high school when the board will decide the fate of sports and other extra-curricular activities for the rest of the year.

But a teacher and several parents countered that idea.

Some read from a levy campaign brochure that said extra-curricular activities would be cut if the levy failed, and told the board it must stick to what it said it would do to gain the community s trust. Others reiterated that the schools mission is academics, and it should put its funds toward such goals first.

Dick Perkins, however, said cutting extracurricular activities could send the financially reeling district into a landslide of problems. Without sports, music, and other activities, students will leave, he predicted.

Each student lost will cost the district about $5,000 in state aid. It will not take many transferring students for the district to have to cut more teachers.

Since March, the schools have cut or left vacant about 40 positions, about half of which are teaching positions. Many of the teaching cuts take effect next week. Along with cutting bus transportation for high school students and other cuts, the board s changes have saved the district about $1.6 million a year.

But it needs to cut another $1.5 million by June of 2005 to balance the budget, Mr. Price said.

“We have no discretionary funds,” Superintendent McQuade said. “We re just hoping that we get to December and are able to make payroll.”

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