NAPOLEON - About 50 people showed up at Napoleon High School last night to hear reasons for a recent levy failure and to offer up their help to get an upcoming tax request passed.
School leaders - and levy committee heads - admitted that volunteers have a huge job ahead in promoting the tax over the next six weeks.
“I m glad you re here,” Superintendent David Watson told the crowd. “In passing this levy, it will take everyone in this room.”
For the second time in just four months, Napoleon residents on March 2 will be asked again to approve a five-year, 7.9-mill operating levy. The same request was defeated in November.
The levy campaign comes on the heels of a recent school board decision to make $167,000 in cuts this semester. The board also has approved another $1.56 million in additional, permanent cuts - including 25 teachers and administrators jobs - starting next school year.
Despite the upcoming levy, residents were told last night that there s no chance of reinstating those cuts, including all the teachers jobs. If the levy passes, though, a third round of pending cuts totaling $800,000 won t have to be made, school officials said.
The additional cuts include ending all extracurricular activities and losing at least a dozen more district employees, including assistant principals, more teachers, and kindergarten aides.
“This is the talk of the town, folks, good, bad, or indifferent,” one of the committee chairmen, Chris Peper, said of the levy.
If approved, the tax request would raise an additional $2.3 million a year for the 2,300-student district and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $248 a year.
School officials have said the money is needed to offset a $2.5 million deficit.
Last night, volunteers heading up the levy campaign encouraged residents to get involved, by spreading positive word about the tax request and by telling them the reasons people give for voting no.
Comments from the opposition ranged from people who feel alienated from the district, including residents who live in the nearby towns of McClure and Florida, to people who are disgruntled about the district in general or feel they can t afford the new tax.
Residents also commented that the campaign could be difficult because so many teachers jobs already have been cut, impacting class student-teacher ratios for next year.
School leaders encouraged volunteers to contact friends and family members this weekend and talk up the tax, and then help by volunteering on committees or raising the needed $6,000 to $7,000 to promote the tax.
“We may hear some negative comments, but we have to focus on going out there and getting more voters,” said resident Marlowe Witt, who is heading up the campaign.
School leaders are holding another levy campaign meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the high school.