Voters approve Salem Grade School levy increase

A Salem School District resident with a home valued at $200,000 can expect to see a $134 increase in school taxes this fall as residents have approved a 2009-10 budget that includes a tax levy hike of 9.1 percent.

About 33 district residents approved the $5,546,540.52 levy at the district’s annual meeting Monday night.

salem-signTempers flared for more than two hours as residents dissected the budget that will add $460,682 to property taxes. Despite cutting the operating budget $1.16 Million for the 2009-2010 school year, and cutting operating expense for the current year by $644,345, state aid decreased by 6.73 percent or $438,163 due to a decrease in enrollment and state educational cutbacks.

While School Board President Shane Gerber did not want to raise taxes, he said that there was no other option except to lay off more teachers, and they are already working with a skeleton staff.

“Last year we let 17 teachers and 10 support staff go to make the budget work,” he said. “We are dealing with 25 to 32 kids per classroom—I know these are tough times, I live in the Village of Paddock Lake and know how high the taxes are, but we really have no choice, and this increase doesn’t even consider Central High School’s levy or the County’s.”

Business Manager Peter Geissal stated that large graduating classes of 130-140 students played a large part in the decrease to state aid with smaller Kindergarten classes coming into the school.

“This is the sad part, the revenue limit formula is that even if we gained 50 kids next year, it wouldn’t change the revenue limits until we gain the 100 that we lost,” he said. “The board struggled with the dilemma of educational programming and revenues depleting.”

More than 50 electors attended the meeting, many vocalizing discontent with the levy increase. Several supported a consolidation between several grade schools, but Geissal stated that other districts were not interested in merging with Salem.

“Not only are these smaller schools afraid of consolidating with the big school of Salem, but the ones who have already consolidated have not noticed any significant decrease in mil rates,” he said.

Other suggestions such as decreasing teacher salaries, salary freezes and partial payment of insurance were popular among several electors, but Geissal said that the board is not ready to discuss those options yet.

“I think teachers deserve a fair wage for the work that they do,” he said. “The quality of the school district will be less without these dedicated teachers.”


One Comment

  1. Susan Jame says:

    My child attends to Salem and I love the teachers. The lunch can be a little expensive so she has cold lunch. Great teachers and education.

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