MP analyzes one election, preps for another

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(Posted Sept. 5, 2017)

Madison-Plains school board members and other district leaders are talking about what district operations might be like without new revenue.

The board met in special session Aug. 28, at which time Superintendent Tim Dettwiller painted a bleak scenario of what could happen as early as next school year.

“These are only examples, not recommendations,” he stressed, referring to a list of potential cuts, including no high school busing, no extracurricular activities, pay cuts, and reduced staffing at all levels.

“If the levy had passed in August, we would have had a lot to negotiate,” Dettwiller said about such items as step increases and based pay increases. “Now there’s not much to negotiate.”

The district’s request for an additional 5.9-mill operating levy lost by a wide margin in the Aug. 8 special election. It wasn’t the worst defeat the district has suffered, Dettwiller said, but it did continue a 50-year pattern of new levies failing the first time the district presents them to voters.

“We’re waiting for an analysis of who did and who did not vote,” Dettwiller said about the low voter turnout (21 percent).

As it is, the district has $3.897 million on hand, Treasurer Todd Mustain said. It costs an estimated $50,000 a day to operate the district. Passage of the new levy would have produced another $2 million a year over five years.

Without new revenue, the district could dip into deficit spending by the fall of 2018.

Board members are considering options for ballot requests in 2018. Possibilities include trying again for an operating levy on the May ballot or looking at other types of revenue generators, such as an income tax.

For the more immediate future, the board is focusing to the November 2017 election when the district will ask voters to renew a permanent improvement levy.

Dettwiller said he is optimistic that the November levy will pass because district voters have not turned down permanent improvement requests in the last 50 years.

The permanent improvement levy would allow Madison-Plains to buy two school buses, four classrooms of furniture, new windows in the intermediate building, textbooks, maintenance and upgrades of the buildings, work around the campus, and equipment such as computers. Dettwiller put a price tag on the list at $731,000.

As for communicating to voters about the permanent improvement levy, Dett-willer said he is posting information on the district’s website, www.mplsd.org, and sending out direct mailings. He also encourages residents to attend MPAC and PTO meetings to learn more.

The board’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 in the board conference room at the elementary building.

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