Wheatland Center School Board considers post failed referendum options

wheatland-school-busThe Wheatland Center School Board on Wednesday considered several courses of action in the wake of a failed referendum earlier this month.

After the options were laid out, there wasn’t a lot of discussion, but perhaps district administrator summed it up best: “”We have to go back; we have to have a referendum.”

The April referendum sought approval of a non-recurring referendum for four years — $750,000 for each school/budget year. It was defeated with 286 no votes and 233 yes votes.

Without additional revenue next year, the school district is facing an estimated $460,000 deficit and will have essentially no fund balance, McGinley said.

McGinley blamed not a lack of revenue, but restrictions imposed by the state revenue limit on school districts.

Going forward, here are the options outlined for the board by McGinley:

Make $460,000 in spending cuts — McGinley said “We can’t possibly reach $460,000 (in cuts) without a huge impact on programming and a great impact on the things we have done to make this a great place.” He also pointed out that cutting that amount would add nothing to the district’s fund balance (reserve funds).

Request another referendum — When and how would be key questions when implementing this option. Holding a referendum concurrent with the Aug. 12 partisan primary would help hold down costs. A special election would be more expensive, maybe costing between $6,000 to $7,000. Waiting until the November general election could be too late in the year to leave time to certify a levy based on the referendum’s result.

Combination of cuts and a new referendum — Could the amount of the referendum be reduced if some cuts were also made and would that make the referendum more palatable to voters?

Consolidation with another district — This is an option discussed in the past for Wheatland’s financial woes. “Frankly,would any district want to take on our debt?” McGinley asked.

Dissolution— Dissolving the district and likely letting the state attach  portions of the current Wheatland district to other adjacent districts.

Board President Christopher Serak said he favored a combination of cuts and a new referendum.

“A combination of cuts and another referendum sounds to me like a middle of the road option,” Serak said. He also felt the April referendum language should the fine tuned. He criticized the language on the April 1 referendum as sounding “like a tax increase.”

Board Treasurer Troy Brumley pointed out that second tries on referendums have been successful for Wheatland referendums of late. But McGinley cautioned agaisnt taking too much comfort in that fact. McGinley said the district did not do a good enough job of communicating the urgent need for the referendum to pass.

“We tried to do it without scare tactics, but they are not really scare tactics,” he said.

The board did not settle on a definite course of action, but likely will address the issue again at its next meeting.



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