CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee Board of Education members discussed the failure of a recent income tax levy during a special meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 2.
The .75-percent levy, which would cost taxpayers $.75 for every $100 of income, was defeated at the polls earlier this year. Last renewed in 2010, the measure has been rejected by voters repeatedly since 2015.
The district is projecting only a $2.5 million carryover by the end of the 2022-23 school year, according to Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop, which would leave funding in the district’s accounts dangerously low and will likely prompt the State of Ohio to come in and “make recommendations about how to turn the tide financially.”
“The first thing they’re going to say is, ‘You need to pass a levy of some kind,’ which we’ll have already tried to do many times by then,” Bishop said.
State intervention would likely lead to “huge” class numbers and very few elective courses or other special services, according to Bishop. A levy passage in May or November of 2021, meanwhile, would allow collections in 2022 that would increase available carryover funds to $2.8 million.
While a balance of at least $4 million would be ideal, according to Bishop, a smaller increase would still “slow the rate at which we’re going toward the negative significantly.”
Cutting bussing services for high school students and moving athletics to a “pay to play” model could save the district another $300,000, according to Bishop, but would also come with drawbacks for students and their families.
“Families have to come up with hundreds of dollars in order to participate,” Bishop said, questioning whether low-income residents would be able to handle the expenditure.
Board members questioned whether state funding for the district might increase in the coming years, but Bishop wasn’t optimistic about the possibility.
“There’s hope, but that’s certainly not something we can count on,” Bishop said. “The silver bullet from the state is not necessarily coming.”
Bishop also said that further reducing staffing would likely not be an attractive option.
“Staffing-wise, I’m comfortable saying there’s not a lot of places where it’s an easy fit to say, ‘here’s somewhere we can save some money,’” Bishop said.
Board member Gary Rader stressed the importance of communicating the dire nature of the situation to the district’s voters.
“We really need to get it out there where people understand… we’re bare bones here,” Rader said.
Board president Julie Singleton pointed out that even passing the .75 levy wouldn’t be an instant fix.
“We’re still on a downward trend even if we pass the levy, so something has to change,” Singleton said.
Board member Nick Duskey suggested it might be more “equitable” to run a property tax levy.
“We depend too much on income tax, and being a poor district, we get less bang for our buck that way,” board vice president Jeff Wood agreed.
If an income tax levy in May is unsuccessful, Bishop said, the 2021-22 school year would begin with serious reductions.
“And if November is unsuccessful, that’s a whole other year, so there’ll be more cuts in 2022-23,” Bishop said.
Wood suggested presenting voters with a precise, transparent list of the services that will have to be cut if the May levy fails. Bishop agreed.
“Everybody will know going into May that this is the reality if this fails,” Bishop said.
Singleton also agreed.
“We keep saying that’s a tough conversation, and it is, but we need to get there,” Singleton said.
Preble Shawnee Board of Education meetings are typically held the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in either the Media Center or the High School auditorium.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish