Paris seeks taxpayer support to help finance the school district budget
The real work now begins for the Paris School Board as it seeks to educate the community about a school referendum before the April election.
The board voted unanimously Thursday night to ask town of Paris taxpayers to help finance the Paris School District budget. Paris has been utilizing its fund balance to make up a running budget deficit. Without financial help, the district faces a $450,000 shortfall, with only enough money left in its fund balance to cover approximately half that amount.
Upon recommendations by Administrator Roger Gahart, the board approved a referendum asking to exceed revenue limits by $600,000 for recurring purposes. With a recurring referendum, the authority afforded by the community continues permanently, as opposed to other referendums that conclude after a period of time.
With several options such as a 3-year non-recurring referendum to balance the budget, a 3-year non-recurring referendum of $600,000 and recurring referendums for $500,00 and $550,00, the $600,000 recurring plan is the best option, Gahart said.
“The benefit of the $600,000 recurring plan is that we will be able to increase the fund balance and the revenue limit is raised,” he said. “Schools are funded with recurring debt so a recurring referendum is the way to go. If we can occur state savings or revenue changes, we won’t have to tax at that amount. It is not a mandated tax like the non-recurring referendums would be; the board can levy lower taxes.”
To help soften the tax impact of the referendum, the school board is working to curb operating costs by collective bargaining to reduce health insurance costs, salaries and retirement liabilities. Employing energy conservation, cooperative purchasing, and community volunteers, building and grounds operating expenses will be minimized.
Although Gahart requested a closed-session meeting with the Town Board, he said Town Chairman Virgil Gentz told him that the board is not willing to meet to discuss plans to relieve the burden on taxpayers.
“Despite that, we still want to work with the Paris Town Board to seek ways in which we can utilize future town income such as the Landfill,” he said. “We also plan to reduce expenditures in supplies and materials and increase student population by open enrollment and develop an Educational Foundation.”
Although a $600,000 recurring referendum would add approximately $440 to the tax bill during bleak financial times, Gahart cautions that if a financial solution is not passed, he would have no choice but to go to the state and file for dissolution as a school district because he would have no funds to continue operating.
“If the full amount of money isn’t needed, we won’t tax for it,” he said, adding, “The revenue limit has not gone up, but our expenses have.”