Smaller, shorter levy hike sought

/ 13 June 2012 / jennifer

Kylie Saari, Fairmont Sentinel, June 13, 2012 –

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Area Schools has good news and bad news.

The good news is it is financially stable for the next school year. The bad news is what happens after that.

“We are in superb shape financially for the coming school year,” Superintendent Joe Brown told the school board Tuesday. “It is in the ’13-’14 [school year] that we fall off the cliff.”

The school board received the 2012-2013 budget Tuesday. It also approved asking voters to consider an operating referendum in November.

The district wants to replace an existing $500 per pupil unit levy with a $950 levy for five years, to take effect in 2013-2014.

The request is significantly different from the referendum turned down by voters last fall. That proposal asked voters to approve $1,400 per student for 10 years.

Brown says the new levy request will keep the district from going into debt for four years.

“It would be dishonest to tell folks it would last 10 years,” he said. “It won’t.”

He noted that the district budget grows each year by about 2 percent.

“On a $16 million budget, that is $320,000 to $340,000,” Brown said.

He added that the $950 per student – a 32-cent per day tax increase on a $100,000 home – will only be enough to keep the district afloat.

“It will allow us to stay where we are at – not one more teacher hired,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass, $750,000 will be cut out of the next year’s budget.”

He has an idea where the cuts would come from.

“It is not going to be pretty,” said Brown, noting that the public needs to know what could happen if the levy doesn’t pass.

Brown said the board would have to look at cutting the $300,000 it spends on school sports, relegating all sports to associations, in the manner of hockey and soccer.

Also on the list of possible cuts: Cutting 10 percent of the teaching staff – 10 to 12 faculty members – as well as taking the high school from a seven-period day to a six-period day. Also:?Eliminating special programs at the elementary school.

“You have to give people a choice,” Brown said. “The community will pay for what they want.”

In other business Tuesday, the board approved a new contract for business manager Sue Nelson. It includes a 3 percent salary increase for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. The deal increases life insurance coverage from $100,000 to $200,000, and the retirement fund match from $500 to $3,000.

Nelson had not received a salary increase for the previous two school years.

The school board also received word that the custodial/maintenance staff contract has been settled at a 2 percent increase in salary and benefits for two years.–shorter-levy-hike-sought.html