Levy try urged for S. Range

BEAVER TOWNSHIP- South Range Schools Superintendent Dennis Dunham Monday night recommended the school board pursue a levy on the November ballot.

Dunham told the board, considering the financial state of the district, he believes the pursuit of a levy to generate operating funds is needed to avoid a deficit without making significant cuts in programming. The board did not take immediate action on the recommendation and will discuss what levy type and millage to pursue. The millage must be certified by July 31 to be placed on the November ballot.

According to Dunham, the board took several actions since December to address a projected $850,000 deficit by July 2014, including instituting open enrollment and single route busing and reducing materials and supplies and purchased services, in addition to completing the second year of an absolute wage freeze and higher health contributions for all employees, which increased the balance of $46,167. But with continued increases in operating expenses, losses through vouchers, charter schools and open enrollment and stagnant-at-best state funding, the district is looking at deficits of almost $903,000 in 2015 and $2.1 million in 2016, he said.

The district has accepted 53 students so far in open enrollment to generate $303,796 for 2013-2014, falling 110 students short of capacity, Dunham said. The busing change will save $120,000 to $140,000 and the reductions in purchased services and materials and supplies will save approximately $200,000, he said, while losses in state funding per pupil, vouchers, charter schools and open enrollment total $320,000 for the upcoming year.

Dunham said that the board is committed to maintaining the current level of programs for the 2013-2014 school year, but with no increase in revenue, significant cuts, both academic and athletic, are impending for the following years. There will also be cuts in personnel and service-related line items, he said.

In addition to discussing a new money levy, Dunham suggested discussion of open enrollment for 2014-2015 and beyond.

The district last passed a new money levy in 2004. The board has been making moves to avoid asking for a new levy since 2010.

Kevin Howell can be reached at khowell@salemnews.net