Although they’re savoring the passage of a 6.75-mill operating levy, members of the Lake school board took the precautionary step Tuesday evening of voting to proceed with a levy on the November ballot.
Tim Krugh, board president, said Wednesday that results of the special election – which saw the levy approved by a 137-vote margin, 1,501 for to 1,364 against – won’t be certified until late August but the board faced a deadline last week for placing an issue before voters in November.
“We explained to the county board of elections that it’s provisional on the outcome of the official results of the election,” he said. “If the results show the levy did indeed pass we’ll hold a special meeting in late August to withdraw the issue from the November ballot.”
Tuesday’s results differed greatly from the August 2011 election when voters soundly rejected a 4.75-mill levy by more than 600 votes: 609 for to 1,250 against. A levy on the November 2011 ballot didn’t fare much better, falling by 354 votes: 1,887 for to 2,241 against.
Krugh attributed the passage of the most recent levy to several factors, including the board enacting about $1.5 million in spending cuts earlier this year that resulted in more than 40 employees being let go; Walbridge Elementary School being closed, and the all-day, everyday kindergarten program reduced to part-time.
“We made the cuts and let the public know we really had to pass a levy this year or we were looking at seven-figure deficits by the end of the year,” Krugh said, adding the cuts will remain in place even though the levy passed.
It hasn’t been all negative news for the district though. Krugh cites the opening of a new high school building earlier this month as another milestone in the community’s effort to rebound from the June 2010 tornado that destroyed the former high school.
“With the new building open, we had a wonderful open house,” he said. “That was something positive for everyone.”
A recent one-year agreement between the board and the teachers’ union that froze salaries also was likely viewed favorably by voters, Krugh said.
“The teachers really did step up and share in this community project,” he said. “Now we, the board and administration, have to show we’ll be good stewards of these funds.”
Of the 6,625 or so registered voters in the school district, 2,865 cast votes Tuesday. The levy passed in all but two precincts: 420 and 370. It fell by 22 votes in precinct 370 and by 53 in precinct 420.
Jim Witt, Lake superintendent, said this levy campaign included business owners and focused more on reaching parents of students than in the levy promotions last August and November.
Krugh said the school board is scheduling a public auction of the Walbridge Elementary School building for October.