Paris School Board approves another referendum


Paris School District voters will get another chance to vote on a referendum that board members and the administration believe could hold off dissolution of the district.

The board Tuesday night passed a resolution for a non-recurring  referendum authorizing the district to levy  funds above the state mandated amount for three years in an amount needed to balance the budget. A projection presented by administrator Roger Gahart Tuesday night called for referendum amounts of $435,000 the first year,  $495,000 the second year  and $585,000 the final year.

The board unanimousily passed the resolution for the referendum and another calling for a June 9 election.

Gahart said he felt the referendum to balance the budget sent the message that the district was looking to taxpayers just for money to keep operating, while the administration and board would need to work to provide money to build up the district’s fund balance. The board could realize that goal by negotiating savings with teachers under a new contract, establishing an education foundation and pursuing other savings and revenue ideas.

If  approved, the referendum would eliminate a budget deficit for the next three school years. The board also considered a flat $500,000 referendum for the next three years, but that would leave a deficit in the third year.

Before the vote, the board heard criticism of another referendum from several audience members in two comment periods. Speakers generally called for the board to make tough decisions to cut expenses to within the state-allowed revenue limit and not seek additional taxing authority.

Al Schroeder, a district resident from Bristol, charged the board’s arguments for why they are in the current financial situation and need additional revenue were factually wrong.

“Don’t take  away from this that we’re angry at you,” Schroeder said. “We are holding you accountable. Do I expect you to fix this problem? Yes I do.”

Board member Lisa Ashmus deended the board.

“I feel like we all have good intentions and have done our best,’ Ashmus said. “I have no desire to drive up taxes anymore than we need to.”

Last week, the board voted to consider dissolution of the district because projections show it will have insufficient funds to continue operating in the 2010-11 school year. That process likely would be formalized if the June referendum fails, district officials have said. The dissolution consideration vote came nine days after voters decisively defeated a recurring referendum to exceed the state revenue limit by $600,000 yearly.


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