Money would help reopen library

CHAMPION – Voters in the Champion School District are being asked to support a 5.95-mill, 10-year operating levy on the May 7 primary ballot to help maintain what the district provides to its students and restore library and computer services.

The levy will generate about $1 million per year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $15 per month. Voters turned down a 4.95-mill, 10-year levy last November.

With the defeat of that levy and the loss of some state funds, the district lost a year of collecting money in 2013 and had to close the school libraries, increase class size, and cut back on programs and services.

Prior to November’s defeat, the district cut staff, froze salaries and step increases and added a cost to employees for health care.

Board member Amy Schwab said because of less state money, school districts are forced to seek more money from the community. She said in the last two years, the state has cut $1 million from the district’s budget.

Schwab said the schools are a major community hub and important to maintain.

”We need to have the value in our schools to have the value in our homes,” she said.

Board member Roger Samuelson said ”We cannot count on the state to bail us out of the fire. Locally, we need to seek help from the community.”

Board President David Mahan said the levy’s passage would mean the district can maintain what it has and restore the libraries and computers.

”The levy’s passage is needed for the students in Champion and being able to provide to them what we have provided to them in the past,” Mahan said.

A cost-containment plan was presented late last year to show what would be cut if the levy fails.

The plan would save about $600,000 annually by suspending five teaching positions; reducing a part-time nurse; keeping school libraries closed; reducing 1.5 classified workers; suspending elementary guidance; suspending supplementals for most clubs; suspending community outreach activities; reducing technology support services for the district; instituting pay to participate; suspending purchase of classroom furniture; suspending athletic supplementals; not purchasing band instruments; reducing the budget for teacher training; reducing building budgets for teacher supplies; and suspending the purchase of a school bus.

“It will get ugly,” Samuelson said.

Superintendent Pamela Hood said ensuring that each student receives a quality education with programs and services is of the utmost importance, but that is at risk when the district is facing difficulty maintaining current programs.

She said the district has faced $900,000 annual cuts imposed by the state that “no belt tightening will fix.” Without adjustments, the district faces a project $5 million deficit in five years, she said.