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Bus plan could foil school budget: Forces 60% vote to pass spending plan

Despite crafting a $12.66 million budget for the 2023-24 school year that comes in below the state-mandated 2% increase in spending, school district officials got thrown a curve ball that threatens to increase the budget by an additional $102,498.

A proposition will appear to increase the distance the home district is required to bus students beyond the state-required 15-mile radius from their homes to the schools they choose.

Not only does the proposition need a 60% vote to pass, but it now requires the budget to pass by at least 60%. If the budget fails to gain a 60% vote, both it and the busing proposition fail no matter what the vote is on busing.

Should the budget fail, the district would have two alternatives. It can seek a second budget vote on either the original or a revised proposal, or it can adopt a contingency budget, Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., said.

A contingency budget would require further reduction in spending in the next school year by $220,000, he said. Scaling back that much would likely result in having to eliminate programs and teaching positions, he said.

District officials have been cutting expenses for teachers, but not by firing anyone. Instead, in the past couple of years, it has reduced spending for salaries by replacing retiring teachers with greater seniority with qualified teachers whose salaries are lower because they lack that seniority.

The current school-year budget passed with ease last May with 193 people voting in favor and only seven voting against the spending plan. No one has objected to the budget plan during a series of workshops this year.

The only significant request to increase spending came from students asking for a soccer program that increased the proposed budget by $25,000. That cost would come down in future years, but the initial year, there are start-up expenses to purchase equipment and uniforms.

The budget request is now firm, but there is still a public hearing on May 8 at 6 p.m. to answer any questions.

The vote on the budget and the busing proposition occurs on May 16 between noon and 9 p.m. at the school gymnasium. Voters will also be electing Board of Education members on May 16 and those choosing to run must submit petitions to District Clerk Jacqueline Dunning by 5 p.m., Monday, April 17.