The Waterloo School District will hold a special election Feb. 5 for a 5.9-mill, five-year levy to avoid an operating deficit. It's the only special election to be held in February, according to the Portage County Board of Elections.
The emergency operating levy would raise $939,557 per year. In the November general election, Waterloo voters failed to pass a 5.0-mill additional levy that would have generated about $796,200 annually for five years starting in 2012.
"It's the same type of issue we were asking for in November that failed," said Superintendent Andrew Hill. "The only difference is we had to increase it to 5.9 mills because we lost a year of collections. If this passes, we won't start collections until January of 2014. If we pass this, we would avoid an operating deficit."
Hill is hoping the community will recognize that Waterloo has cut some $2 million out of its budget in the past two years and has little else to cut.
"The district has made cuts in personnel and budget, had money saving moves and union concessions. Those have made a difference of over $2 million out of our budget from two years ago," Hill said.
Those cuts have had a cost. Waterloo dropped from a state rating of "Excellent with Distinction" two years ago to "Excellent" last year to "Effective" on the most recent state report card. Average class size is now 30-plus and there is less support staff to help students who are struggling, he said.
The district has had an evaluation by the state department of education.
"We believe, based on those numbers, we're right around six to seven teachers above state minimum. So the next time we would have to cut, we don't believe we have enough staff left to remain in compliance" with minimum standards, Hill said. "When that happens this district will move into fiscal emergency very quickly."
"We continue to work in a positive way to work more efficiently with less, and do the best for the kids. But there's only so much that can be done with a bare minimum.
The last day to register to vote for this election is Jan. 7. In-office and by-mail absentee voting will begin on Jan. 2.
The district serves Atwater and Randolph townships in southern Portage County.
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