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Evansville School District referendum up for discussion

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Gina Duwe
May 10, 2013

— Evansville School Board members on Monday will begin discussing whether the district should consider a referendum asking taxpayers for money to help maintain programs and staffing.

The push is coming from community and staff members who don't want to see cuts, Superintendent Jerry Roth said.

He said he wants direction from the board about how to proceed.

“The concern is we don't want to reduce the programming we offer,” he said.

The referendum idea came up as the board, administration and community wrestled with options to fill a projected $235,435 deficit for the 2013-14 school year. The school district cannot raise property taxes above state-imposed revenue caps without voter permission.

The deficit grew as administrators offered additional spending. Community and staff input helped reverse Roth's recommendation to restructure the middle school schedule and lay off about five employees.

The school board last week modified and approved the last of seven budget reduction options presented by administrators, Roth said.

The approved plan calls for:

-- Holding off on the following spending: $50,000 for books, software and resources; $40,000 for continuous school improvement resources; and $114,500 for technology infrastructure debt.

-- Freezing salary and benefits for all employees.

-- Eliminating one high school position for at-risk students and a 0.64 study hall position. A one-year-only elementary teaching position will be eliminated because of enrollment.

-- Restoring proposed cuts to a librarian position, health position, a one-half music position and 0.27 physical education position.

-- Keeping the current block schedule and language arts, physical education, science and social studies positions at the middle school.

-- Preserving a gifted-and-talented position.

The resulting deficit of $182,507 will be filled from the district's fund balance as a one-time fix while the board discusses finding additional revenue, Roth said. The fund balance totals about $2.1 million, he said.

No layoff notices will be needed, he said, because the district has 16 retiring or resigning staff members. The positions will be eliminated through attrition.

No decisions have been made about a referendum, and the soonest a referendum could be put on a ballot would be spring 2014 to provide money for the 2014-15 budget, Roth said.

It's a scenario familiar to neighboring districts. In April, Brodhead school voters approved a $2.4 million referendum over three years to exceed revenue caps to maintain current programs and staff. Last fall, Albany school voters passed a $1.64 million referendum over three years to maintain operating expenses.



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