This past August, 2019 the New Franklin R-1 School Board voted to place on the Nov. 5 ballot a proposition to raise the Operating Tax levy $1.00 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation. This will increase the operating tax from $3.42 to $4.42 per one hundred dollars. The current levy was last adopted in 1994. So, it has been 25 years before the district has asked the district patrons for an increase on their district taxes. Each year, operating expenses increase with inflation (i.e. salaries, retirement, health insurance, gasoline, textbooks, food) yet we continue to receive local operating tax revenue at the current tax levy set in 1994. An increase is needed to compete with inflation and to maintain the quality of education that New Franklin students have received for the last several years. Additionally, the State has historically underfunded mandatory programs such as special education, technology and transportation, leaving the district responsible to pay for the difference. When those programs are mandated by the state or federal government and appropriate funding is provided to cover the cost, it is a win/win. Initially, funding was provided, but as time went on, the needs have surpassed the funding provided and costs have increased. Districts now find themselves having to make up the deficits locally. All districts have a cash reserve that they can dip into when the need is there. New Franklin district has been very frugal for the last several years, but recently we have had the need to use some of that cash reserve to help balance our revenue and expenses. The district can only continue that strategy for so long.

Our patrons need to keep in mind that the operating tax that we are asking to increase is different than the bond election in 2016. The Bond election was for capital improvements such as the new gym that was built and other similar expenses. The money that pays off those expenses is from a completely different fund. When the bond issue passed, the money received from the sale of bonds could only be used on construction/capital improvements (gym, handicapped ramps, etc.). The law only allows districts to use money from specific funds. So, payment on the new gym is not where this tax will be used. Operating taxes can only be used for the total “operation” of the district – not to pay off capital construction or improvements such as the new gym.

Without the increase in revenue from the new tax levy, the district will be forced to decrease operating expenses. Areas directly impacted include staff salaries, health insurance benefits, class sizes, and program reduction or elimination across the district. Basically, the cost to educate one student today has dramatically increased over the last twenty-five years. But the patrons local Operating Tax has not. The district will need a majority vote for it to pass. To help our school continue to strive for overall excellence, it is critical to the district to pass the tax levy increase.

Brian Cordel is the New Franklin R-1 School District superintendent.