CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee Board of Education members recognized students, discussed the failure of a recent .75-percent income tax levy, and began talking about next steps during their regular monthly meeting Thursday, Nov. 12.
The levy, which would have cost taxpayers in the district approximately $.75 for every $100 of income, was defeated in Camden by a margin of approximately 142 votes; in Gratis by about 160 votes; and in West Elkton/Gratis South precinct by 430 votes.
A similar measure was defeated at the polls earlier this year, along with a proposed property tax bond issue which would have funded construction of a new K-5 school building in Camden and forestalled the controversial closing of West Elkton Intermediate School prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year.
Administrators stressed that despite seeing a decrease in salary expenditures after closing West Elkton Intermediate, the district is still facing a deficit of “just over $1,000,000.”
“We’re on a steep path to insolvency,” board member Nick Duskey warned. “And with the income tax failing, it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. If we don’t do something very soon, we’ll be there whether we accomplish everything we want to or not.”
“We definitely need that .75, and we need it sooner rather than later,” Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop said.
Bishop stressed that deficits of $2.2 and $2.5 million are projected for 2024 and 2025, making the district’s financial situation even more dire.
“When you get into those $2 million numbers, that’s where we get tight making payroll,” Bishop said.
Bishop suggested scheduling a work session in the near future “to discuss the reality of our financial situation, and what the next levy is going to look like.”
The board also discussed the decision to move PreK-4 students to remote learning at least through the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Our #1 goal for everybody is to have in-person learning,” Bishop said. “We tried really hard, we held on. Friday was really rough, Monday was tougher, and Tuesday we hit our breaking point.”
217 students and staff are currently being quarantined due to potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, Bishop said, which amounts to almost 15 percent of the school’s population.
“It’s amazing to see the uptick that we’ve seen this week,” Bishop said. “If you watch the news, things are really exploding right now.”
Bishop said that he “wouldn’t be shocked” if another statewide school closure was ordered in the near future.
“We’ll be prepared either way,” Bishop stressed.
The board briefly debated whether to continue with the district’s upcoming slate of sporting events in January in light of coronavirus concerns, and recent updated mandates from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office concerning restrictions on public gatherings.
“We say in-person learning is where we want everybody to be, but we also want extracurriculars and everything else we can offer,” Bishop said.
Board president Julie Singleton agreed, citing the difficulty of determining when it would be safe to allow sporting events to resume.
“We just don’t know when things are going to get better. That’s such an open statement,” Singleton said. “I say we push forward.”
Duskey also came down against the idea of postponing or cancelling events.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a material difference between now and January,” Duskey said. “I don’t think postponing would be my course of action.”
Vice President Jeff Wood was more cautious.
“What are our odds here, with these kinds of sports? My gut tells me two different things,” Wood said. “I’m going to sleep on it.”
Four student athletes were presented with certificates of achievement: Bryce Singleton, Triston Engle and Travis Howard for First Team All-League Football, and Matthew Bell for First Team All-League Soccer.
Preble Shawnee Board of Education meetings are held the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the High School auditorium.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish