Clinton School District goes to referendum for operating costs

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Xavier Ward
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

CLINTON—Voters in Clinton will decide Tuesday whether the school district should raise its revenue cap.

School District Administrator Jim Brewer said the referendum won't pay for anything fancy, but it will help keep the lights on. The district decided to go to referendum purely for operational costs, Brewer said.

If approved, the referendum would raise the revenue cap by $450,000 in the first year $900,000 in the second year, $1.35 million in the third year and $1.8 million in the fourth year.

The district's revenue cap, set at $10.6 million, has not changed since it was imposed in 2005, Brewer said.

“The system is broken, so we have to rely on the taxpayers,” school board President Ken Luety said.

The estimated school taxes on a $100,000 home if the referendum passes would be:

-- 2017-18: $1,057, including $106 annually for the referendum.

-- 2018-19: $1,161, including $72 annually for the referendum.

-- 2019-20: $1,204, including $71 annually for the referendum.

-- 2020-21: $1,061, including $69 annually for the referendum.

Even if the referendum is approved, school district taxpayers will see a reduced tax rate, Brewer said.

If the referendum fails, the tax rate will fall even further, Brewer said.

One of the district's main concerns when drafting the referendum plan was limiting the burden on taxpayers, he said. That's why district officials decided to wait until the high school, built in 2001, was nearly paid off to go to referendum.

The high school likely will be paid off completely in 2020.

The district has been making defeasance payments—paying more than it has to—on the debt it incurred to build the high school, but the defeasance payments could stop, Brewer said.

The school board could decide to keep making the defeasance payments, which would keep the tax rate about $12.24 per $1,000 of equalized valuation, he said.

If the board decides to stop them and resume the original payments, the tax rate would be lower, Brewer said.

This referendum is necessary because without an increase in the revenue cap, the district will be forced to make more cuts, he said.

“You cut one teacher, you could be cutting an entire program,” Brewer said.

The extra money also would help the district keep up with technology and manage class sizes, which can affect the quality of education, Brewer said.

Luety said the students and the community are two things that would be most affected by what happens with the referendum.

Last year, the district cut $1 million out of its budget to help make ends meet, Brewer said.

“We've been cutting, cutting and cutting. We're to the point where we just can't cut anymore,” Luety said.

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