SIDNEY — It’s official. Sidney City Schools Board of Education will not be placing a permanent improvement levy on the May 2 ballot.
The school district had asked voters to approve a 3-mill, 5-year PI levy three times in 2016 — during the March, August and November elections. Each time, the voters said no. Official totals for the Nov. 8 election saw the levy defeated by 5,833 (54.18 percent) against the levy to 4,933 (45,82 percent) for the levy. There were 447 under votes, which means that number of people voted in the election but didn’t vote for the levy.
“Mike (Watkins, treasurer) and I have talked about the PI levy and the three times it was defeated in 2016,” said Superintendent John Scheu. “We can’t move the needle to get more people to vote yes. I don’t think putting it back on the ballot is best at this time.”
Scheu said the biggest concern he had heard from voters dealt with the carryover balance.
“They think the carryover balance is too big,” said Scheu. The district currently has a $19 million carryover balance. The five-year forecast predicts that in 2019, the carryover balance will be $7 million.
The district, he said, will continue to take care of known and unknown expenditures dealing with PI projects.
“We just have to be careful not to take down the carryover balance too much,” said Scheu.
He said that in 2 1/2 years the board will be placing a renewal for the present operating levy on the ballot.
Board President Bill Ankney said some people have told him they think the millage of the PI levy should be reduced.
“The 3-mill levy takes care of a bunch of stuff,” said Ankney. “With a 2 mill or a 1 1/1 mill levy, we’re always going to be behind the 8 ball.”
“If you want to pass something,” said board member Bob Smith, “then something has to change. We either scrap it and run deficit spending or reduce it and come up with a number that lets us tread water.”
Board member Paul Heins said he doesn’t want to see the board get in a perpetual levy mode.
Bill Warner, who served as co-chair for the PI levy committee, shared his opinions with the board.
“We’re doing the same thing with the same results,” said Warner. “I have mixed emotions on it — we have momentum of what we’ve already done.”
He said the committee would need approximately $5,000 for levy expenses. During the Nov. 8 campaign, they received $11,000 in corporate and individual donations.
“We need to be more clear on why it failed,” said Warner.
He said he learned 85 percent of the school’s student families are not registered voters.
“How do we get them registered and get them out to vote?” asked Warner. “I think we need a door-to-door campaign to get them registered. Until we change that (registered voters), we’re facing an uphill battle.
“Our own (school) families are not helping us get out of this situation with our schools,” said Warner.
The board was questioned about whether they will be asking the community in the future for funds to build new school buildings.
“We have discussed it, but we have no numbers (on cost),” said Ankney. “We want to fix the buildings today so we don’t have to come back for new buildings. Historically, Sidney is not a good city to build new school buildings.”
He said the state mandated new buildings be built in the 1950s when some of the district’s buildings were not safe for students to attend classes.
“New buildings are nice, but your operating expenses will be more,” said Ankney.
The board agreed to table the matter for six months.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.