Brodhead School Board to seek $2.4 million
BRODHEAD The Brodhead School Board unanimously decided at a special meeting Thursday night on a three-year, $2.4 million referendum to present to voters on the April 2 ballot.
The referendum would provide an additional $800,000 for each of the next three school years to help maintain programs and services, Superintendent Chuck Deery said after the meeting.
The district next year faces a projected $800,000 deficit, which grows to an estimated $1 million in 2014-15 and $1.3 million in 2015-16. Brodhead schools lost more than $1 million in state aid in the last two years.
Deery didn't have exact figures on the tax impact after the meeting, but he said if the referendum is approved, the tax rate would slightly increase from this year's $8.81 per thousand dollars of valuation. That still would keep the district at the lowest rate in area, he said.
The referendum would cover next year's deficit but fall slightly short of the projected 2014-15 deficit and be at least $500,000 shy of filling the third year's deficit, he said.
"(We're) hoping over a period of three years, we can see some increase in property values or state aid," he said. Otherwise, the board will have to make strategic cuts or use its fund balance.
Projecting out three years is difficult, he said. The board wanted to minimize the tax impact by keeping it at $800,000 each year.
Board members made a "gentleman's agreement" to use part of the referendum money to retire some of the district's bank notes taken out for the high school roof project a couple years ago, Deery said. The deal would reduce the district's debt but also create a larger operating deficit. The details of that agreement will be worked out in coming months.
"I think everybody walked out pretty satisfied that the differing viewpoints all got listened to and solutions were reached that everybody could agree on," Deery said of the board's discussion.
The referendum decision follows a community meeting last month, when the board presented three options to deal with the upcoming deficit.
The three options were:
-- Cut expenses.
-- Maintain programs but pay for them out of the fund balance.
-- Seek a referendum.
Deery previously said he thinks the solution is a combination of the options. He recommended a three-year referendum with reductions in spending and use of the fund balance.
All the "easy things—if there is such a thing—were done long ago," he said.
If a referendum doesn't pass, cuts would be made to programs and people, such as reducing or eliminating all elective programs, he said. That's a danger because students could leave through open enrollment to find the programs at other districts.
A significant chunk of debt will be paid off this year. The district borrowed $2.3 million in 2004 for elementary school renovations and the track, football field and parking lot.
With the debt being paid off, a $510,000 payment comes off the tax rolls. Without a new referendum, the tax rate would drop $1.80 per thousand dollars of valuation.
Residents at the December meeting said they weren't excited to hear taxes could go down next year but jump up the following year, he said.