R-III School District puts brakes on more cuts, tax levy

By: Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 12/10/20

The Warren County R-III School District has put a hold on talks of additional budget cuts or a tax levy, two topics of considerable interest to the community during a November meeting that was …

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R-III School District puts brakes on more cuts, tax levy

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The Warren County R-III School District has put a hold on talks of additional budget cuts or a tax levy, two topics of considerable interest to the community during a November meeting that was attended by around 150 people.

Board members reconvened on Dec. 3 for a special work session to explore the possibility of proposing a tax increase on the April 2021 ballot. They also considered an additional round of proposed budget cuts that would total approximately $200,000. This follows $619,000 in cuts approved during the Nov. 18 meeting.

Board members decided that both the tax ballot issue and the additional cuts would be tabled, with no further action in the near future.

“I sensed from my board colleagues, and I concur with them, that we’re going through some really difficult times in the world, and we need to stop and take a breath and care for each other in our district by not making any more cuts right now,” said Board President Laurie Wenzel. “Asking people to increase their taxes in a time that is so uncertain in our lives and world did not seem appropriate at this time.”

R-III has taken a tax initiative to the ballot twice in the past two years, with the public voting in opposition both times. While the ballot language might appear different this time, Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith feels history is not a favorable indicator for the district.

“That’s a pretty strong message, given that we’ve run twice and failed,” said Klinginsmith. “We’ve heard the community and understand that now might not be the best time to run a levy. We’re listening and hopefully in the future we can come up with some sort of partnership to fund our schools.”

Concerning the additional $200,000 in cuts, Klinginsmith said a decision does not have to be made at this time.

“There are no more additional cuts coming for now,” said Klinginsmith. “If there are shortfalls on the budget, we’ll just have to re-look at it. Funds could also come in higher than projected, so we’re just waiting to see.”

While the board is devoted to raising its projected fund balance back above 15 percent, it does not have to rush the process to meet its goal.

“We have a plan to make additional cuts in the future through attrition and our board policy said we have two years to get our fund balances back to 15 percent or higher,” said Wenzel. “Let’s take our time and do the district some justice. Let’s see what we can do in the two year time of getting our funds balanced, and after that we’ll determine if we need to ask our community for support.”

Wenzel said the discussion at the November meeting involved the possible elimination of middle school sports, but the conversation at the subsequent work session included proposed cuts of more administrative positions as well.

“We really didn’t intend to look at anything more than middle school sports,” said Wenzel. “Let’s look at different options moving forward, inviting other people to the table to talk about things with us, and let’s take it easy on our community, since we’re all going through such a hard time. We’re making decisions in a climate where people are taxed and stressed. We realize we need to not cause any more tension on the community.”

The school board will hold its regular monthly meeting this Thursday. On the agenda is a presentation from community members who will discuss plans to raise private funds to cover the cost of ag teacher that is being eliminated as part of last month’s budget cuts.

Tax, budget, Warren County School District

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