SJSD Finance Committee weighs future levy extension | Education

The future of a 61-cent property tax levy set to go off the books in 2024 was the center of discussion at a meeting of the St. Joseph School District finance committee Monday.

The conversation centered around two options: increasing the tax to 81 cents, with a sunset clause, to go toward teachers and staff salaries or keeping the amount at 61 cents but eliminating a sunset clause to make it permanent. The St. Joseph Board of Education could decide to put the issue before voters in August. No final decision has been made on what to present to voters.

Doug Van Zyl, superintendent of the St. Joseph School District, said having too many options on a ballot creates confusion and typically turns off voters. He encouraged the board to come to a conclusion on one proposal for the tax, not leaving both up to the public to debate.

Board of Education member Kenneth Reeder and Gabe Edgar, who is set to become the district’s next superintendent this summer, jointly discussed other issues linked to the tax, including school closures and consolidations, emphasizing that the quicker the public is able to vote on the tax. , the sooner these issues can be resolved.

“To me, that’s the reason to run in August. We have to start those conversations, we need to run it, ”Edgar said when asked where his priorities lie in discussing this with the community. “If it passes in August, those conversations need to start on Aug. 4, or whatever the next day is. ”

When talking about an increase in the tax, board members questioned whether or not the community would buy into it and vote it through.

Members of the committee also discussed the option of asking for the 81 cents initially, and if the public votes it down, dropping back down to the 61 cents as a compromise.

An overwhelming concern centered around the “when” to vote on the issue. Edgar emphasized that it is in everyone’s best interest to present any changes to the tax to the community as quickly as possible.

“We’re bringing it out in August because, as you know, we have a lot of things that need to be done and we would rather start these conversations now,” Edgar said. “Because if you start them in April 2023, guess what? You’re already down to ’24, ’25 before you can make anything happen… So that’s our selling point. “

The committee disbanded after an hourlong discussion with Edgar taking talking points from the meeting to the whole board and obtaining sample ballots with both proposed tax amounts to share with the group.

The board will vote on moving forward with a decision later this month. If not, the committee will hold a special session to revisit the conversation.

After 2024, failure to extend the levy could result in salary freezes and about $ 8 million in budget cuts.

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