approved its 2011-12 budget 4-1 Wednesday night, a $1 million increase from last year.
Business manager Todd Covault said the total budget is $48.5 million. Among the expenditures include $33.7 million for education, $4.04 million for operations and maintenance and $5.6 million for debt service.
Covault said the biggest unknown is the transportation fund and what the state will pay this year. In his projections, the fund includes what the state owes from last year and is supposed to pay this year. He said the state has paid all that is owed from 2011 with exception of $90,137.
“We’re heading on the right track,” he said. “If the state pays what they owe, we’re in great shape.”
Asked by board member Michael Carbone if effort was made to reduce costs, Covault responded he does not want to squeeze buildings too tight because they are controlling their spending. He added coming to the district in July, much of the budget already was associated with staffing, including $24.6 million planned for wages and $5.8 million for benefits.
‘If you didn’t make significant changes to staffing levels, your budget is decided,” he said.
Prior to the board vote, residents urged the board to decrease spending and listen to the community, who still face difficult economic times.
Lisa Jarratt said businesses are closing, and banks are foreclosing on people homes. There are residents who have had enough and wonder why the board thinks they have deep pockets.
“Now is not the time to increase taxes. It is time to freeze or reduce as board member Kip Evans has stated. It is time for the school district to share in the sacrifice,” she said.
Joan Spilis, who lives in Clubs of Bradford, said she came to represent residents over 55 who want to support the children and the schools but can only do so to a certain extent.
“Over 10 percent have foreclosed in the last two years and more are coming. It isn’t getting any better,” she said.
Carbone, who abstained as a vote of protest, said the district has found $6 million in savings the past 2½ years and collected another $3 million the past two years from levy increases.
“I’d like to understand and help the public understand why is the budget increasing when we’ve worked this hard to find these savings,” he said.
Keeping one of the highest tax rates in Lake County, he added the tax rate is driving businesses out of town and keeping new ones from coming.
“By raising these rates, we’re losing businesses downtown. There are many empty shops and there are more moving away,” he said.
Board member Kip Evans, who voted against the budget, said people are fed up with out-of-control spending. If the district cannot cut 1 or 2 percent to keep us in line this year, they will be in more trouble next year because things are getting worse.
“I didn’t see anywhere in this budget that anything was reduced. I didn’t say cut, reduced,” he said. “I cannot vote for this budget with the understanding we will raise the levy and tell the taxpayers you don’t get a voice. We did not do our due diligence to see if there was anything in this budget that could be reduced.”
Board member Keith Surroz said the district follows a delicate line to control costs but not to make so many cuts that families leave the district.
“We don’t want to dismantle the schools,” he said. “Once we do that, watch what happens to the property values.”
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