Kings: Will voters support a levy?
The Kings Local School District has operated what some may consider “above and beyond” the expected life of a 2010 levy passed by voters, stretching the money not for three years, but for six.
But all good things must come to an end, which means Kings voters have a big decision to make, according to district leaders.
This week Tim Ackermann, Superintendent of the KLSD, held the first two meetings in a series of town-hall style gatherings — as well as more personal, in-home meetings around the district — to gauge whether or not Kings residents will support an operating levy.
At the first meeting, held Monday night at Columbia Intermediate School, about 45 community members were greeted by Ackermann, Assistant Superintendent Timothy Spinner, Treasurer Shaun Bevan, KJH Assistant Principal Brent Allen and other district leaders..
Once greeted, community members were handed a survey that asked for a rating of the quality of a Kings education, as well as opinions on Kings’ fiscal stewardship.
First matter: How has the district squeezed a three-year levy into six years? Ackermann credited energy savings, a restructuring of the school bus system, a teacher salary freeze, and the district moving to a high-deductible health insurance plan for employees, among other “efficiencies” saving millions of dollars over the six-year span.
This year, the district is already spending more money than it is taking in, but Ackermann assured the residents that a new levy would not stop the cost-saving efforts. However, if a levy does not pass this year, some tough, much more visible cuts will have to occur to make the district stay solvent.
Operating levy scenarios include a 2016, 5.5-mill levy that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $192.50, with an additional $1 million in reductions in FY’17.
But if the district waits until 2017 to pass a levy, it would have to be a 9.1-mill levy costing the owner of a $100,000 home about $318.50 per year — also with $1 million in reductions but adding an additional $2.5 million in reductions in 2018. By that time, a 5.5 mill levy would lead to more drastic reductions.
Such measures would include (see graphic above): eliminating 15 elementary teaching positions, increasing class sizes to an average of 28 in all grades, eliminating elementary counselors, no more all-day kindergarten, reducing one assistant principal position, starting open enrollment, eliminating the YES tutoring program, reducing nurses to “aide” positions, outsourcing all custodian jobs immediately, families paying to participate in sports, among other cost reductions.
If the community is going to support a Nov. 2016 levy, Ackermann said the school board must pass a first resolution by July 29. A school board vote to send a levy before voters requires four “yes” votes, a higher standard than the usual 3 “yes” votes to pass other agenda items.
What the district is trying to avoid at all costs is waiting until 2018. By then, without help from voters, Ackermann said the district will then be risking a state takeover.
“It is illegal to run a school on a negative cash balance,” he said. “When that happens that’s when the state comes and takes over the school district.
The second community meeting was held Tuesday evening at South Lebanon Elementary, followed by a third community meeting on March 7 at the Junior high. Then Ackermann plans to hold 15 to 20 smaller community conversations in homes around the district. Anyone who would like to host a group community meeting in their home can contact District Community Relations Coordinator Dawn Gould at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (513) 459-2925.
By Kayleigh Johnson