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Norton school levy requested to help maintain programs

10/11/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

District hosting open forum on levy Oct. 15 at high school

NORTON — Superintendent David Dunn said the Norton City School District has cut all it can from its budget without impacting students’ educations.

Now the district is asking voters to approve Issue No. 66, a 1.9-mill continuing levy that would cost the owner of $100,000 in property $58.19 a year, to help the district maintain its current slate of programs.

“We’ve made significant reductions over the past five years,” Dunn said. “We’re not going to be able to continue to offer the programs we currently offer students if we can’t have some additional operating funds.

“As has been the case with many districts, our state funding continues to be reduced,” Dunn added. “What we have done over the past four or five years is taken efforts to be as responsible as possible. We’ve had reductions in staff, we have people doing multiple jobs, and we changed insurance packages. Through all that, we’ve gotten to the point where to protect the programs we currently offer students, we needed to go back on the ballot.”

The levy would bring an additional $534,903 into the district annually, according to Treasurer Stephanie Hagenbush. That’s not a large amount compared to what some local districts are seeking, but Dunn said that was done on purpose.

“The intent was to keep the levy amount absolutely as low as we could possibly keep it,” he said. “We’re not trying to pass a levy that will get us through for 15 years. If we can do it this November, this will get us through 2016 barring anything unforeseen happening.”

Dunn said voters have told the district that they would prefer the district go before them with levy requests more frequently with reasonable levy amounts.

“We’re trying to be respectful of their wishes,” he said.

The levy is for operating expenses only.

“It can’t be spent on facilities or anything like that,” Dunn said. “It would go toward operating the district and maintaining the program. It would pay for salaries, books, technology, transportation, maintenance of the buildings and all those expenses you have on a day-to-day basis.”

Dunn said he would encourage residents to support the levy because of the quality education the district provides students.

“I’m proud of the education we provide students,” he said. “We also provide an awful lot of opportunities for students, and we continue to provide as many as possible in a fiscally responsible way as we possibly can. We have done everything we can possibly do to make sure we are operating the district not only efficiently for students but efficiently from a financial standpoint.”

Dunn added the district has saved $3 million in the past few years by changing its health insurance policy. In addition, teachers took pay freezes for the past two school years. Contracts with teachers and support staff expire at the end of this school year.

The superintendent said he is available to speak to community groups about the levy and provide details on how it will help the district. The district also plans to hold an open forum Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Norton High School gymnasium.

The campaign is on Facebook at Norton City Schools: Excellence Worth Keeping—A Community Commitment.

Dunn said if the levy doesn’t pass, he thinks the Norton Board of Education will weigh its options but likely return to the ballot in the near future.

“I don’t see it being a belt-tightening phase at all,” he said. “The only discussion that would have to take place with the board is how soon we need to go back and whether or not 1.9 mills would be sufficient to maintain our programs. No matter how you slice it, the decision is, do we want to maintain the program we have for our students?”

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