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Levy decision will come this summer

When the District 196 School Board voted May 13 in favor of putting an operating levy on the November ballot, board members described the decision as a kind of placeholder. Changes under consideration at the state legislature would have required boards to decide earlier than usual if they wanted to ask voters for more money, and while board members hadn't yet decided if they would, they didn't want to lose the option.

Now that the option is on the table, the district's next step is to figure out if the question will end up on the ballot. They'll have to make a final decision by August.

The first step in that process will involve figuring out exactly what funding decisions made this month by the legislature will mean for the district's bank account. Finance director Jeff Solomon said last week it looks like state funding will come in better than anticipated. But that increased funding will have a limited on what Solomon described as a "fiscal cliff" in the district's financial plan.

According to district projections, there will be $23 million in budget adjustments needed for the 2014-15 school year and another $19 million in 2015-16. Solomon said even successfully asking voters to approve a maximum levy of $1,666 per student would only result in a reduction to $6 million in budget adjustments in 2014-15 and $18 million in 2015-16.

Solomon said the district has known for a long time those adjustment needs were coming.

"It's not something that just popped up," he said. "It's something the board was seeing."

The district will also conduct a community survey in early summer to judge residents' perceptions of the school district as well as their support for a possible levy.