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School Bond Issue Meets Some Resistance
As schools across the state continue to struggle to meet their financial obligations, several local districts are proposing bond sales. But potential tax increases don't always sit well with voters.
Cuts to state aid will likely mean the North Mac school district doesn't have the cash to finish the school year. Now, the school board is moving forward on a potential bond sale, but a group of citizens is asking for more say on the action.
"We will be making cuts for this spring," North Mac Superintendent Marica Cullen said. "Significant cuts, that will have a pretty negative impact on the kind of program that we wish to offer to our students."
Last year, the North Mac school district lost 5 percent of its general aid from the state through a pro-rating of the formula. This year, that jumps to 11 percent. Estimates place next year close to 20 percent.
"For a district like ours, this is a huge hit," Cullen said. "Next year's pro-ration could be over a million dollars. On a $14 million budget, that's a big chunk of our money. We will exhaust all of our reserves, potentially in March or April of this year."
The school board's solution is a working cash bond sale for up to $2 million, which does not require a public vote.
"A school board can adopt a resolution, which provides for 30 days of notice, publication in a local newspaper, a hearing, before actually going through the actual process of issuing bonds," Cullen said.
But a group of residents filed a petition to force the bond sale to be decided by a public referendum.
"When you start that borrowing process, where does it end?" petition supporter Larry Herron said. "It's not any different than you at home. You don't spend any more than you got."
According to school estimates, if the sale goes through, the average homeowner would only pay $2 more per month in real estate taxes.
"That's really not the point," Herron said. "The point is, is it or is it not going to increase your taxes, and let's let the people decide whether they want to do that or not."
The district will be holding a hearing tonight over the petition. There were some technical issues with how it was field. But according to petition organizers, the question is not over having enough signatures. More than 700 people signed it, and only 571 were required.
The current bond sale proposal would allow the district to borrow up to $2 million, then pay it back over a period of five years. Cullen said it would help the district make it through the end of this year, and to get to the point in August when tax money and state aid begins to come in.