Craig resident proposes mill levy, foundation to offset school budget cuts
March 31, 2011
At its regular meeting Monday, the Moffat County School Board:
• Approved, 7-0, the second reading of policy 3517.2, regarding security and access to buildings.
• Approved, 7-0, the second reading of policy 4135, regarding supplemental employment of retired staff members.
• Approved, 7-0, the second reading of policy 1210.1, regarding visitors to schools.
• Approved, 7-0, adopting a resolution from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.
• Heard reports from members of the Swim Pool Task Force.
• Postponed first readings on policies 5600 and 6190 until April.
Craig resident Chris Jones expressed concern Monday night to the Moffat County School Board over looming state budget cuts.
Jones told school board members he moved back to Craig with his family two years ago, and has a daughter in first grade and a son in preschool.
"To put it in Texas Hold 'Em terms, I'm all-in," he said. "I've got the next 12 to 13 years of education for my kids here, so I'm very concerned about now, two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now."
Jones gave the school board two ideas to help the school district offset funds potentially lost in upcoming state budget cuts.
He proposed a mill levy increase or generating money through a private foundation to increase revenue.
School board president Jo Ann Baxter said the school board needs to focus on the current budget, which will be finalized in June. However, she said the school board would revisit his proposal in May or June.
Jones said that based on his research, a mill levy increase could raise up to $1.7 million for the school district.
Mark Rydberg, school district finance director, said the largest mill increase the school district could propose is 25 percent of total program. Total program is per pupil funding multiplied by the pupil count before the state's stabilization factor.
Rydberg said the mill levy is currently about 14 percent of total program. He said the last mill levy override was in 1997 for $1.9 million, which the school will continue to receive.
"The difference between where we're at, about 14 percent of our total program, to the 25 (percent) is about $1.7 million," he said.
Craig City Council member Ray Beck attended the meeting and asked what the cost would be to taxpayers if the mill levy was increased.
Rydberg said the current cost averages about $55 per year per house valued at $150,000.
If the mill was bumped to 20 percent — adding about $1 million in revenue — the cost per year would increase to about $80 a year. Increasing to 25 percent would raise costs to about $100 per year.
Jones acknowledged a levy increase wouldn't be the answer to all of the district's financial struggles, but that it would bring in a large amount of money in a short time.
If an approach was taken to raise money through a foundation, Jones said there would need to be some "seed money" to help start it. There would also need to be businesses or alumni to contribute money, followed by a pledge drive.
He said the foundation and the school district would handle money received by the foundation.
Baxter said she doubted school board members would object to the ideas, but questioned how voters would respond. She also mentioned the difficulty of launching a mill levy campaign.
Jones said he had not visited with any service organizations or social groups to gauge interest in the ideas. But, he said he would welcome the challenge of overcoming any voter resistance.
"I just don't know if we can wait and let voter apathy subside until the economy gets better," Jones said.
School board member Trish Snyder felt the ideas were a good way to reach out to parents.
"I hear, too, from some parents," she said. "They don't know what to do (to help with budget cuts). It may be a successful campaign to reach out to them with something concrete to latch onto and help with."
School board member Andrea Camp said if the ideas were not used, the cost of budget cuts would likely end up coming back to parents in the form of fees.
"One way or the other, we're going be paying that money out of our pocket," she said. "I'd rather be paying that money and putting it into the district before we have to make those cuts."