School board settles on special levy rate hike to 93.8%, not 100%
The Morgan County School Board unanimously decided against a proposed 100% special levy rate which they had considered and went with an increase to a 93.8% special levy rate for fiscal year 2013. Last year’s special levy rate was set at 88.5%.
Their action came at a second budget workshop which was held on Thursday, March 22 to discuss what to do in light of decreased revenue from county property taxes and increased expenses. All school board members were in attendance. No members of the public spoke at the meeting.
An increase of the special levy to 93.8% would bring in $308,552 more in revenue. The board will still need to cut expenditures $22,448 to make the budget work with the levy increase. They weren’t sure at meeting time where the cuts would be made.
The school board will reconvene the March 22 meeting on Tuesday, April 17 to officially approve and adopt their proposed special levy rates.
93.8% levy rate
If approved, a 93.8% special levy rate for a home appraised at $150,000 and assessed at 60% or $90,000 would mean that the homeowner would pay an additional $12.39 in taxes this year.
For a $100,000 home assessed at 60%, it will be an increase of $8.26. For a $200,000 home assessed at 60%, it would mean an additional $16.52.
An estimated $280,000 had been cut from the budget with personnel decisions, School Superintendent David Banks said.
School Treasurer Nancy White had gone over the budget again since the Tuesday night meeting and reduced it an additional $20,000 with cuts to lawn care, student workers, contracted services, technology, supplies, repair and maintenance.
White also had more information on state aid computations for Thursday’s meeting. She had the difference between the proposed revenue of $23,532,006 for the general current expense fund with the special levy at 88.5% and the proposed expenditures of $23,863,006 down to $331,000.
The total proposed budget revenue was now at $27,627,936, with $23,532,006 in the general expense fund, $325,000 in the capitol projects fund and $3,770,930 in special revenue.
The special levy was approved by voters in 2008 at a 100% rate for fiscal years 2009 through 2013 at $5,560,681 a year for each of the five years. White estimated that at 93.8%, the special levy would bring in $5,457,421.
The special levy provides funds for school instructional materials and equipment, free textbooks, technology, school and extra-curricular activities, programs, field trips, transportation, facilities upkeep and maintenance, additional salaries and benefits and increased enrollment costs.
It also provides financial support to the Morgan County Health Department, the Morgan County Extension Service and Energy Express, Morgan County and Paw Paw Public Libraries, the Morgan Arts Council and Morgan County Parks & Recreation.
The special levy is up for renewal in 2014 and will be placed on the ballot for voter approval in 2013.
Board member David Ambrose asked when the summer enrichment program for third and eighth grades became an unfunded mandate from the state. White said it had been funded for the last two years, but that it would be funded by the school board this summer.
Unfunded mandates happen from year to year with programs or services that the state requires of school systems, she said. They receive funding for a year or two, and then counties have to fund it.
School nurse funding was one of those requirements. They had initially received $50,000 for the positions, but the remaining $10,667 was cut for next year.
New initiatives that teachers have to add to the curriculum are another unfunded mandate, said board member Larry Omps. They had to add four teachers with Policy 2512, which was not part of the state aid formula, White said. Neither is the cost of interventionists for Tier 2 and Tier 3, Banks said.
Costs for speech therapy services were high. They have tried to recruit a speech therapist to be on staff, but have been unsuccessful, Banks said. The previous staff speech therapist retired around five years ago.
Board member Aaron Close suggested that they find out what neighboring counties are paying for the position and revisit increasing the salary supplement to attract one. Speech therapy services are mandated and driven by a student’s Individual Educational Program. (IEP)
Omps wondered if doing their own lawn work with their own equipment and two more maintenance men would be less expensive than what they were paying. White said there was a lot of upkeep on the equipment, plus the salary for one maintenance worker with benefits could be more than the projected cost.
They also discussed possibly capping the amount of money paid out for tuition reimbursements every year, with requests coming in after the cap was reached being reimbursed the following year.
Banks discouraged it, saying that tuition reimbursement drew teachers to the county and helped them retain highly qualified teachers who continued their education.
Ambrose noted that the board was mindful that homeowners carry the special levy since the county doesn’t have that many businesses.
With the many unfunded mandates from the state that school systems must follow, there weren’t many options, he said of the levy increase.