The Troy City Schools Board of Education agreed Monday to hold off on approaching voters again for more tax revenue to pay for buildings after a bond issue was rejected this spring.
Instead, the focus will turn to securing adequate operating funds. A 5.8 mill operating levy is soon to expire and the district has also lost funding and added costs due to COVID-19.
“The first thing we need to do is take care of operating issues,” said Superintendent Chris Piper.
“I definitely think we should wait,” board member Sue Borchers said of another construction funding request.
The bond issue would have raised funds to build three new elementary schools for grades pre-kindergarten through four and one other new building for grades five and six. Voters rejected it by a 60 percent to 40 percent vote in the spring election. A new approach likely will be explored later to possibly include a phased construction proposal, board members said. A fifth-sixth grade building might be proposed first followed by new elementary buildings, said Doug Trostle, board member.
Before approaching the community again, a survey might be appropriate, Borchers said. “I think we all believe it is due to COVID it didn’t pass but I think we need to be sure,” she said. The March 17 election was delayed at the last minute and voting in an absentee format continued until late April.
When discussion turned to operating funds, Piper said the district lost $900,000 in state funding with cuts because of COVID. A portion will be made up with CARES Act dollars from the federal government but the amount has not been finalized nor received, said Treasurer Jeff Price.
Plus, more cuts are expected for the coming school year although the amount in not known, he said. The impact of job losses during COVID on the district’s earned income tax won’t be known until later in the year, Price said.
The district faces two challenges, Piper said. They are revenues not keeping up with inflation and expenses from trying to operate nine buildings. Part of the benefit of the construction plan was it would have consolidated buildings.
The 5.8 mill operating levy will expire in 2021. The board will need to decide if it wants to propose a levy renewal, a levy replacement or another option for operating money, Piper said.
The challenge now is determining how much more operating money will be needed with changes required by COVID. Those changes have not been identified as districts wait for direction on school reopening requirements from the state, Piper said.
The board will discuss operating money options further. “We need to talk between now and mid-July to determine what we will do,” said board President Tom Kleptz. The deadline to place a levy on the November ballot is early August.
The bond issue discussion for new buildings can resume next year, Kleptz said.
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