By approving an austerity plan that reduces spending in the next school year by about $350,000, the Lake school board and administration see the district being in “survival mode,” Jeff Carpenter, district treasurer, said last week.
After conducting public forums with local elected officials, business and community leaders, and residents, board members concluded any request this year for additional property tax revenue would fail at the ballot, he said, adding the board intends to only seek the renewal of two levies in November.
“With the economy being in the shape it is, the board realized there was no chance of being successful with a levy this year,” Carpenter said. “So they’ve outlined a plan to survive through 2011-12.”
At a meeting earlier this month, the board agreed to eliminate the position of high school principal, implement an expanded early retirement incentive plan for teachers, and approve a two-year contract with the teacher’s union that includes no increases in the base pay.
The responsibilities of principal Marty Schloegl will be assumed by the high school assistant principal, the middle school principal, and the superintendent.
The retirement incentive plan is expected to save the district about $1.4 million over the next five years, according to Carpenter, who said the administration anticipates six teachers retiring in the 2010-11 school year and seven the following year.
“The board felt that the longer we can go without asking for new levy money the better off we’ll be when the economy improves,” he said. “The idea behind the spending cuts was to do them in a way that didn’t directly affect the classroom.”
The board also isn’t looking to the state for help. Since 2002, the district has seen the share of its operating budget from state revenues drop from 40 percent to 26 percent.
Carpenter said the board will likely vote to place renewal levies on the November ballot but may ask voters to approve them as continuing issues rather than their current five-year terms.
A 6.76-mill, 5-year operating levy generates about $1.52 million a year while a 1.4-mill, 5-year permanent improvement levy generates about $330,000 annually.