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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2004

Evergreen: Levy panel ups its efforts 0.75 percent tax asked for 5 years

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Evergreen High School band performs during the rally to support the vote for an income-tax request. About 800 people attended. The Evergreen High School band performs during the rally to support the vote for an income-tax request. About 800 people attended.
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METAMORA - Evergreen Local School District s levy committee, which lost two attempts to pass an operating levy in May and November, is going door to door throughout the district for the first time in decades.

A rally with student performances in support of the district s 0.75 percent, five-year income tax drew about 800 people on Sunday.

But the levy committee has also faced open hostility in the district where the last operating levy request in November failed by 60 votes.

At least three large wooden signs supporting the levy were spray painted with big red circles with a line through them - a symbol for no - or were broken in half.

Some residents who answered levy volunteer Sheri Call s knock at their doors accused district leaders of trying to “sneak” the levy through on the March 2 ballot, which she found ironic because she was going to door to door to notify voters. But opponents of school levies have said they are annoyed by repeated requests for the same levy.

The requested levy is larger than the 0.5 percent taxes that district voters denied in May and November. District leaders said they would need more because a tax passed in March would not begin collections until 2005. More money is needed, they said, because of cuts in state aid and rising costs for employee s health insurance and utilities.

A 0.75 percent tax would be expected to collect about $900,000 a year. It would be on top of a permanent 0.75 percent income tax for operations on the books and would take the total income tax for the school would increase to 1.5 percent.

In December the school board agreed to cut a school principal and about 10 percent of its teachers for the 2004-2005 school year. The board also authorized suspension of all teacher s aide contracts before the new school year.

The staff cuts - eight teachers out of a total staff of 81 teachers - were in response to a $600,000 budget shortfall district officials expect. Earlier, the board had eliminated sports and other extracurricular activities for next school year for the same reason.

The district continues building and renovation projects paid for with a bond issue for such projects. Bond issue money for permanent improvements and operating money funds cannot be interchanged.



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