Madison-Plains seeks renewals, no new taxes

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The Madison-Plains Local School District will be on the ballot in November, but not for additional taxes. Instead, the school board is asking voters to continue paying what they are paying now by renewing two existing levies.

On July 17, the board approved resolutions to place renewal requests for a 2.5-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy and an 8-mill, three-year operating levy on the Nov. 6 ballot. Both levies are on the books now; both expire at the end of 2008.

Board member Dave Hunter asked district Treasurer Scott Hiles how long the renewals would hold the district.

Hiles replied, “If both pass, we should be OK until 2011.” That’s based on preliminary projections, does not account for major fluctuations in state mandates or laws, and assumes the district will continue with its practice of curbing expenses.

“If we don’t secure both of these, it’s going to hurt us,” Hiles added, noting that the 8-mill levy represents roughly a quarter of the district’s budget.

The board’s ability to ask for renewals and not additions is based in part on a brighter financial outlook than was expected for the district.

Hiles reported that the district is $845,000 ahead of what former treasurer, Mark Zimov, projected in his last financial forecast in December. Part of the cushion is due to higher property tax collections than were predicted, but also higher savings on certain expenditures.

Hiles said the district spent approximately $218,000 less on retirement and other employee benefits, $193,000 less on purchased services, and $139,000 less on supplies than was estimated.

“We’re doing something for the community by not asking for more money,” said board President Linda Blankenship. The decision to ask for renewals instead of additional money tells the voters the district has budgeted responsibly, she said.

Board members Sherry Kuehnle and Ken Morlock, co-chairs of the levy commit-tee, said they will spread the word about the ballot requests. They recently sent out letters in search of committee volunteers. Kuehnle said they likely will start with more than 50 members and plan to meet in August.

Board member Don Swonger said the levy committee should meet year-round, not just at election time, to plan for the district’s future financial needs and educate the public on levy options.

Morlock said he and Sherry have talked about holding quarterly school finance meetings in addition to levy campaign meetings.

In other business

• The pay-to-play activity fees for 2007-08 are $100 per student per middle school student per sport and $150 per student per high school sport. The maximum cost per middle school family is $250; the maximum per high school family is $400. The maximum for a family with middle and high school students is $400. Fees must be paid in full before the first game.

• Shelby Smith resigned as girls’ varsity assistant basketball coach. The board approved contracts for Joan Boyle as girls’ varsity basketball coach and girls’ varsity track coach, Don Beatty as seventh-grade football coach, Karen Lindsey as seventh-grade volleyball coach, Shannon Christian as eighth-grade volleyball coach, Tobi Briggs as eighth-grade girls’ basketball coach, and Jenny Wethington as middle school head soccer coach.

• The district secured a $19,888 state grant to pay for a math camp for eligible incoming freshmen. The camp will run three hours a day, four days a week at the high school from July 30 to Aug. 16. Students who do well on the exit test may be placed in a higher level of math for their freshmen year. There is no cost to the students.

The grant also will pay for tutoring for any student who wants it at the middle school or high school. Math help and science help each will be offered two days a week during the first and third quarters.

• The Madison Rural PTO donated to Madison Rural Elementary two Smart Boards and two projectors worth $4,205. The school now has six Smart Boards and six projectors.

• Superintendent Janice Streit was absent from the July 17 meeting due to illness. The next regular meeting of the Madison-Plains school board will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 21 in the administrative offices behind the middle school. The board will hold a work session retreat at 5 p.m. Aug. 23; the location is yet to be determined.

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