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Submitted for the Feb. 24, 2009, Tomahawk Leader:
Letter to the community:
Over the last several months I have updated community members about the financial challenges facing the Merrill Area Public Schools.
As we have previously discussed, the district’s financial situation stems in large part from state-imposed revenue limits and their negative impact on districts, like ours, with a declining enrollment. As a result of these revenue limits, the school board has been forced to face down a budget deficit of more than $760,000, $675,000 and $690,000 in each of the next three years. To help address this budget situation and to better understand the priorities of the community, the board used a process for gaining input from community members. Specifically, the board held a series of listening sessions across our communities and conducted a community–wide survey to help guide the board’s actions. Using the information gathered through the listening sessions and the survey, the board weighed the priorities of the community while making more than $1 million in cuts to the district’s budget. The latest round of cuts comes over and above more than $5 million in cuts that have been made since 2000.
As a board we feel that we have done a good job maximizing the investment of our community members and cutting district costs. However, the cuts we are now forced to make will have an impact on the basic educational services of our district.
Therefore, in weighing the priorities of the community against the district’s budget shortfall, the board believes that it cannot, in good faith, ignore the fact that further program and teacher cuts will have a significant, lasting and negative impact on the core education of our district’s children.
As a result, the board unanimously voted to present voters with a referendum solution that is designed to stem the loss in educational programs and core teaching positions caused by this budget shortfall. Specifically, the referendum that will be on the April 7th ballot would give permission to the district to exceed its annual revenue limit by raising an additional $760,000 for 2009-10, $675,000 for 2010-11 and $690,000 for 2011-12.
It is important to note that the size of the referendum on this April’s ballot is significantly less than the one that was defeated in 2008.
Under this plan, the cost to a district resident with a home with an assessed value of $100,000, would be $60 for 2009-10, $51 for 2010-11 and $46 for 2011-12.
There is no question that this is a terrible time for a board to ask voters for additional dollars, but the board feels that it would be irresponsible for it to not to present this partial solution to our financial crisis to voters.
While the measure that is being presented to voters is designed to stem the loss in educational programs and core teaching positions, it does not in any way reduce the need for the district to continue to find ways to reduce costs. …
In the coming weeks we will provide you with additional information about the April 7th referendum. In the meantime, if you have questions or would like to voice your opinion, I encourage you to contact a member of the board.
With that, I offer my thanks for your continued interest in our schools and, on behalf of my fellow board members, continue to welcome your thoughts, questions, and suggestions at this critical time.
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