The future of St. Joseph’s School District may depend on whether voters update the sunset clause, a key tax increase provision approved by voters in 2019.
SJSD finance committee members heard last Monday to know when and how the electorate could be asked to restore or eliminate the decline. Although there is flexibility in election planning, there are three realistic windows: August 2022, April 2023 and August 2023. There are alternative dates, but they will take place along with the high-intensity general election in November or establish special rules that complicate the election. No one wants to postpone this issue to April 2024, which would be a real moment of “freedom or rupture” and would bring crippling uncertainty to district finances.
If the summer of 2024 comes without renewal, the district will lose at least $ 6.6 million in annual revenue. While this may not look like much compared to a $ 146 million budget, it mostly finances staff compensation. District leaders are prohibited from reducing teachers’ salaries. If there is a shortage, it means at least a reduction in benefits. Most likely layoffs.
“It’s not something you can just pick up,” said Doug Van Zil, head of schools. “Because if you take away the foundation of your house, it will collapse. And that’s where we’re sitting now.”
Gabe Edgar, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer of the SJSD, said he had never heard of the sunset being tied to annual education income before he joined the county. However, after a similar tax plan failed in the ballot box in 2017, the Board of Education at the time decided to adopt a new idea of the event to try to demonstrate interest in gaining the trust of the population. It worked, and about $ 61 per $ 100 worth of property determined by Buchanan County (for those with taxable property in the county) went to the treasury.
Edgar explained how the data shows that the money was invested as promised. Rising costs over the years mean the collection is now a “major” part of district finances, as Van Zyl said. Edgar spoke clearly.
“It would mean a drastic reduction,” he said.
Based on contributions from committee members, including Education Council officials Tammy Pesley, David Foster and Kenneth Reeder, county leaders stressed that they did not want to see the issue as prophets and did not aim to see them as punishing voters for refusal. district needs.
Reader said he was in favor of a new property tax measure, including an increase to 81 cents or more. This will fund staff upgrades. But his electorate will not vote “yes” if there is no sunset.
“I can live with the sunset,” he said. “What you’re doing now is that (administrators) have heeded my advice: if they’ve always argued that the sunset is ‘You can’t plan a budget around this,’ it’s a false story.”