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Clark School going forward with tax freeze opt-out proposal

Clark County Courier [1]

A public meeting was held March 4 at the Clark High School gym to discuss the proposed opt-out of the tax freeze for the 2013-2014 school budget.
With approximately 75 interested patrons in attendance, the Clark School Board, through the school’s administration, presented the financial picture of the district, and then answered the questions from the public.

The Clark School Board will vote on a a resolution to opt-out of the current tax freeze, for five years, for $300,000 annually, at their March meeting.

If an opt-out resolution is passed by a two-thirds vote of the Clark School Board at the meeting (which was held March 11), it will then be publicized twice in the Clark County Courier. This decision may be referred to a vote of the people upon a petition signed by at least five percent of the registered voters in the district and filed with the governing body within twenty days of the first publication of this decision. If there is no petition, the resolution would become in effect without a vote.

The Clark School opt-out situation concerns only the school’s general fund and, even though it was stated by Superintendent Brian Heupel that the district is a (land) rich district, the school Business Manager Heidi Sigdestad, along with Heupel, gave the financial presentation showing that the reserve fund is depleted, and that this opt-out is necessary to proceed “with business as usual.”

When the question was asked as to what the worst case scenario would be, if this opt-out was brought to a vote and not passed, Sigdestad replied, “Cuts, deep cuts to salaries and benefits. We are at the point now that any cuts would mean programs, as Clark School has trimmed everything to the bone with $500,000 worth of cuts the last 10 years.”

The Clark School business manager spent the first half hour of the public meeting detailing the school’s five major funds, showing how student enrollment numbers have affected the general fund and then giving a fund balance projection.

Sigdestad said she is very willing to answer any and all questions one might have concerning the opt-out and she said she felt quite strongly that this opt-out is necessary for the Clark School District going forward.

As this resolution becomes official, the Courier will show tax number details, as then an official number, such as $300,000, will be available.

Superintendent Heupel then spoke of the fiscal journey to this point and the role of the financial advisory committee. “The 15-member fiscal advisory committee was set up for a variety of reasons, including: to make sure we were on the right track, to ask questions that maybe we hadn’t thought of, to look at different recommendations, and to figure out what the request should be,” he said.

Clark School Board President Michelle Mehlberg summarized the board’s ideas and proposals after all questions from the public had been heard. “If cuts are made, there is a negative snowballing effect and it’s very important that we keep our system at the high level we currently have,” she said.

Mehlberg and Heupel then noted that next year’s calendar will be modified to include 16 Fridays, if approved by the school board.

Heupel, Sigdestad and Mehlberg asked any and all to stick around until all questions were answered and noted that if anyone has any questions concerning the opt-out to contact the aforementioned with one’s question.