School board drafts special levy call for May primary

by Kate Evans

The Morgan County School Board presented their preliminary proposed special levy call on February 1 during their regular meeting. That levy call would continue the Morgan County Schools special levy for the fiscal years beginning July 1, 2023 through July 1, 2026.

County voters will decide if the longtime extra school tax will continue for another four years.

If approved by the school board at their February 15 meeting and by voters in May, the proposed four-year special levy would bring in $4,494,543 annually at the same tax rates that voters approved in the May 2014 and May 2018 special levy elections.

In both elections, voters approved a 70% reduced levy rate, meaning that the school board imposed an additional tax on properties in the county at 70% of the rate allowed by state law. The special levy is charged in addition to the regular state school tax.

School officials are proposing that the special levy renewal election be held on May 10 to coincide with the May 10 primary election.

Morgan County Schools has had a special levy since 1958.

Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said presentation of the special levy call had originally been set for their January 18 meeting, but that was cancelled due to snow.

Minor changes

Tuttle noted that there were no major changes in the proposed levy order, just a few minor ones.  Salaries and benefits and critical education programs would receive slightly higher amounts –$67,245 and $105,000 respectively.

Capital improvements was now a separate line item from facilities and maintenance and the combined support for the county libraries was raised from $35,000 to $45,000 at the recommendation of the state.

Tuttle said that social and emotional support and health and wellbeing were added to the critical education programs line item.

Same tax rate

The proposed special levy tax rates for the May 10 special levy election would be the same as in the 2014 and 2018 special levy elections — 16.08 cents per $100 of assessed value for Class 1 properties, 32.16 cents per $100 of assessed value for Class 2 properties, and 64.32 cents per $100 of assessed value for Class 3 and Class 4 properties. The levy rates would apply for the fiscal years beginning July 1, 2023 through July 1, 2026.

What the levy will fund

If approved by voters, the proposed special levy will provide approximately $4,494,543 annually over four years. Of that, an estimated $1,972,105 is for employee salaries and benefits; $1,252,438  is for critical education programs support; $400,000 is for facilities maintenance, security and operations; $300,000 is for  capital improvements/repairs or purchase of property; $125,000 is for  technology hardware, software, infrastructure, repair and training; $400,000 is for instructional materials, textbooks, programs and equipment; and $45,000 is for the combined support of the Morgan County Public Library ($27,000) and the  Paw Paw Public Library. ($18,000)

Salaries and benefits

  The $1.972 million special levy monies for employee salaries and benefits will raise professional and service staff pay above the state minimum to attract and retain highly qualified personnel.

The special levy pays the full salaries and benefits for any teachers or school staff employed above the state minimum.  It also provides coaches’ pay and staff supplemental salaries for extracurricular academic duties.

Critical educational programs

   The $1.252 million for critical educational program support will provide funding for alternative education and prevention resources, academic enrichment and remediation, social and emotional support, health and wellbeing, extracurricular activities, science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) programs and vocational programming.

It includes monies for remedial specialists and interventionists, social work and counseling positions and Advanced Placement (AP) programming.

February 15 meeting location

The special levy call is on the agenda for discussion and approval at the February 15 school board meeting.

The meeting will be held at Widmyer Elementary at 6:00 p.m. Widmyer Elementary’s local school improvement council (LSIC) presentation will take place that evening.

School Treasurer Ann Bell sent a copy of the preliminary special levy order to the school board’s attorney and to the state auditor’s office for their approval.  Once the final special levy order is approved by the school board on February 15, a copy will be presented to the Morgan County Clerk and to the Morgan County Commissioners.