The Springs School Board has an uphill mountain to climb as it seeks support from the community for an over-the-tax-cap budget plan that will need a supermajority of at least 60-percent voter approval to pass.
The school board voted 4-to-0, with Erik Frederickson absent, to formally put a $35.4 million budget plan for the 2023-24 school year on the May 16 ballot. The year-over-year spending increase is 7.65 percent, while the anticipated tax-levy increase is 5.15 percent.
If Springs fails to garner enough “yes” votes, there would be a second vote on June 20; the district could choose to put up the same proposal for a revote or go back to the drawing board and adjust the budget. In order to bring anticipated spending within the restrictions of a contingency budget, the district would need to make more than $1.8 million in cuts.
Mike Henery, the interim business official, said that’s “not meant to be a threat.”
“That would impact almost every program we have going in the district. . . . The cuts have to come out of everything we spend for and on the Springs School itself,” he said, rather than the big areas like tuition or employee salaries and benefits.
The budget breaks down roughly to $2.86 million in administrative spending, $3.3 million in maintenance and operations spending, $11 million for high school tuition, and $18.2 million for all other educational expenses and teacher salaries and benefits.
Not everyone in Springs is content with the budget proposal. “Will 60 percent of the voters support a budget that is so far above the cap? I’m afraid that the answer may be no,” said David Buda, a resident who closely watches district operations. He had suggested the board further tap into its reserves to offset the tax increase.
Barbara Dayton, the school board president, reiterated Mr. Buda’s comment that the district would have to “live with the consequences of your actions” should the budget not pass. “This board is now facing consequences of purposely reducing the percentages that we asked in 2020 and 2021 to such an extent that this year we are required to pierce the cap,” she said. “If we had not lowered the budgets in those years, we would not be in this position today.”
Tim Frazier, the board’s vice president, said, “We looked at every single thing we possibly could. I’m hoping the community understands that and trusts that because of the history that we have — high standards, yet at the same time fiscally responsible.”
Mr. Buda asked for a “one-minute rebuttal” of the board’s justification of the over-the-cap budget plan, but his request was declined.
A public hearing on the budget is planned for May 9 in the school library. Additional budget details can be found at springsschool.org.
In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, Lisa Dragone, a librarian and reading teacher, and Lucy Yardley, a special education teacher, announced their retirements after long careers with the district — a combined 60 years, Ms. Winter said.
“Thank you for your years of service,” she said, noting there will be a celebration at the end of the year recognizing retiring employees.