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With budget set, levy talk comes next

After months of discussions and some significant cuts the final approval of District 196's preliminary budget went by without incident Monday.

Board members approved a budget that includes $15 million in budget adjustments, including the elimination of about 90 classroom teaching positions. Discussion about those cuts began in December, and the final decision was made in April.

Other budget adjustments include the elimination of the D.A.R.E. program, higher fees for sports and fine-arts activities and a new for-a-fee bus service for students who live in areas where busing is not available.

The district isn't done with budget talk just yet, though. Along with the cuts made this year there has been talk of whether the district would ask voters to approve an operating levy when they go to the polls in November. Board members are expected to discuss the possibility of a levy at a workshop meeting July 12.

Even if it's approved, a levy would not solve all of the district's problems. The district is allowed under state law to ask voters for an additional $525 per student. That would bring in $15 to $16 million in new revenue, but finance director Jeff Solomon said the district is already looking at $31.5 million in adjustments for its next budget.

Communication specialist Tony Taschner said in May any levy the district pursues would likely be an all-or-nothing proposal -- either the district asks for that $525 per student maximum or it doesn't ask for anything.

The district will get some feedback in the near future about how residents feel about a possible levy. At its July 14 meeting the district hired research firm Springsted, Inc. to conduct a survey of district residents to measure opinions about district programs and to gauge just how receptive the public would be to higher taxes.

The district will pay $17,300 for the survey.