Levy passes with 56 percent of vote
MONROE - The Monroe School District’s two-year learning levy passed last week with more than 56 percent of the vote.
The levy will collect $15.5 million in 2013 and $16.4 million in 2014. It needed a simple majority to pass.
The state only pays two thirds of teacher salaries and benefits, and half the salaries and benefits for all other employees, Superintendent Ken Hoover said last week. This means the district has to run levies to make up the difference.
With uncertainty about the future of state funding for public education, the levy gives the district a bit more stability in its budget over the next two years, Hoover said. The levy funds 22 percent of the district’s budget.
“We’re very grateful to our community for passing the levy on the first try,” Hoover said.
The average homeowner in Monroe will see an approximately $4 increase per month on their property taxes the first year and another $4 per month increase the second year.
The levy replaces the one that expires at the end of this year. The average homeowner will pay $784 in 2012 for the current levy, which will go up to $832 in 2013 and $881 in 2014 with the passage of the renewal on Feb. 14.
“It’s more money than the last (levy), but most of the money is replacing money we’ve been receiving” that will stop after this year, school board president Tom MacIntyre said.
The state has cut education funding over the past three years.
“It would be a huge double hit if we had to make the cuts on the state side and lost the levy,” he said “It would be devastating to the programs of the district.”
Because of state cuts, the levy now funds “a lot of what we consider basic services,” Hoover said, including the purchasing of new textbooks, as well as funding after-school activities and athletics.
Additionally, “a large chunk of our staff is supported by that levy,” Hoover said.
The community support means even more since less than half the homes in the district have children in the public school system, MacIntyre said. It means people see the value in a quality school system, Hoover added.
Community members are invited to be a part of the budget process, and to learn more about how schools are funded, district spokeswoman Rosemary O’Neil said.
The district has scheduled an all-day meeting Wednesday, Feb. 29 for the public to attend and give their ideas for spending district money.
The district decided to hold an all-day meeting this year because the district found that holding several meetings over several weeks was difficult for people to squeeze into their busy schedules.
The Feb. 29 meeting runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the district’s administration building, 200 E. Fremont.
“We’re trying something new this year in the hopes that we will have our community come in and help us brainstorm some ideas for efficiency,” O’Neil said.
The district hopes to know by March how much the state plans to cut from K-12 education.
The district will hold two night meetings in late March to build on the ideas formed at the Feb. 29 meeting, she said.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published Feb. 22, 2012