The levy failed … so what’s next?

The Milford school levy failed by 305 votes a week ago Tuesday.  While provisionals and some absentee ballots remain to be counted, it is unlikely this will turn around.  So what’s next for the district?

Superintendent Dr. Farrell presented three scenarios for moving on from here financially.  If you recall, the district is losing $4.1 million in state funding, beginning this year.  While we had been living within our means for 4 years, this reduction combined with normal business expense increases in things such as insurance, utilities, transportation, and more, causes us to eat up our cash balance very quickly.

When we placed the 4.5 mill levy on the November ballot, we did so with the understanding from some market research that the community did not want us to cut any more programs or services.  Over the past four years, we have reduced millions from the budget in recurring expenses.  While we are actually providing a better level of education than before, we are at the point where major reductions are few and far between, and it would be impossible to find the $4+ million without affecting what we have.

Because of how tax collections fall, failing the November levy means we will not collect any funds for a levy that passes in 2013 until 2014.  Thus, if we want to recoup the same amount in new levy funds as the 4.5 mill November levy would have provided, we would have to increase the levy amount to 6.3 mills.

However, since the community failed the 4.5 mill levy now, it’s reasonable to expect it will not support an even higher levy.  Thus, Dr. Farrell presented what is needed to keep the levy amount at 4.5 mills.  This will require cuts starting immediately.

The three scenarios he discussed are:

Scenario 1:  4.5 mill levy in 2013
If we run – and pass – a 4.5 mill levy in May or November, 2013, we will need to reduce $750,000 this year and an additional $2.5 million from the budget in 2013-14 to stay solvent.  This would put us at a $2 million projected ending balance in 2016-17.

We had planned to cut around $750,000 this year no matter what.  We had to make up the balance of the loss from the state, and Dr. Farrell’s goal, if the November levy passed, was to reduce enough to live within our means for at least 2 more years.  This first scenario does not allow us to live within our means for any year, unless there are other major changes in the forecast, but it keeps us solvent through the next five years.

Scenario 2:  A levy does not pass in 2013
If we do not pass a levy in 2013, and we assume a levy does not pass until 2015, we will have to reduce $4 million in 2014-15 to stay solvent through these projections.

Scenario 3:  We do not pass a levy in this forecast timeperiod
Fiscal Watch is declared by the state if your reserve balance is less than 2% of your total budget.  If no levy passes through 2016-17, the last year of this forecast, we will risk being placed in Fiscal Watch in 2015-16, and we will definitely enter Fiscal Watch – or worse – in 2016-17.

The board will be working to gather input from the community in a variety of ways.  I have already received several ideas from community members – please send more!  We are holding a Listening Session on November 29, 7 pm, in the Milford High School cafeteria.  Please attend and bring your family, friends and neighbors.  We will then hold a work session in December, tentatively the 13th, for the board to begin to discuss scenarios, options and how to reduce.  Our regular board meeting will then be December 20.

While the process to determine what can be reduced will take months, the board must decide about a May levy quite soon.  With a 100-day filing deadline, we must file no later than January 25.  Two resolutions are required before filing, so if we move forward with this, the first will be passed in mid-January, the second no later than January 24.

As I have said in other posts and my letter in the Community Press, I hope we come together as a community to find new ways of delivering strong, beneficial programs and services.  Nothing should be off the table – if it’s never been done before, so what?  We need to question and consider everything.  That is the only way we can identify new ideas and keep the quality our district has built so painstakingly over the past few years.

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One Response to “The levy failed … so what’s next?”

  1. Jan Matulis Says:

    Thank you for all your thoughtful updates on the levy situation, Andrea – much appreciated!

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