Genoa school officials are working to convince voters of the need for a 4.99-mill emergency levy for operating expenses on the May 6 ballot.
The new levy is expected to generate about $800,000 a year. For the owner of a home valued at $100,000 that’s about another $175 annually to help cover the costs of salaries and benefits, daily expenses, classroom materials and transportation.
It’s been nearly a decade since Genoa schools have asked for an operating levy, Superintendent Dennis Mock said.
Back then, district leaders were in such a dire situation they were forced to cut busing for older students to keep the budget in line. Those services have since been restored. What services or jobs face the chopping block in the days ahead hasn’t been discussed yet, Mock said.
Levy information is being sent home to the parents. The school district’s Instant Alert messaging system is also sending out “Get Out and Vote” reminders. And the end of the year schedule is full of major events such as honors and awards banquets and the spring musical where officials are taking the opportunity to speak on the levy’s behalf, the superintendent said.
Should the measure fail this spring, officials expect to make another pitch in November. There is, they say, little wiggle room left. The district tried three times before the emergency operating levy passed nine years ago.
Failure of the levy will propel the district into a complicated slashing mode that would take months of discussion, Mock said. Cuts would not come in the 2014-15 school year but reductions would likely be targeted for 2015-16, when, without the levy, the district deficit is projected to be about $836,000.
The continued reduction in state funding is at the heart of the financial quandary. Most school districts barely have recovered from the real estate tax and income tax losses generated by the recession that began in 2008. The state, they say, compounded the situation with its continued cuts. And over the past five years, Genoa school leaders have confronted the situation by making difficult decisions to reduce staffing and services amounting to more than $6 million, district treasurer Bill Nye reported in previous interviews.
The loss of the Chinese language program and reductions in the nursing, development and psychological staffs are some of the most noticeable changes.
The district also made changes to its school building program, resulting in a combined campus with a new middle school and elementary building in walking distance of the high school.
Many of those multi-million dollar changes were crucial elements in reducing long-term costs in transportation and utilities and allowed for better working relationships between students and teachers, Mock said.
While the state picked up the bigger portion of the construction tabs, property owners still have at least 20 years before the elementary school debt falls off the books.
Mock defends the construction of the new schools and the savings associated with leveling the outdated buildings.
“I think the consolidation helped us stay off the ballot a few years,” he said.