GEORGETOWN — The Georgetown Exempted Village School district is looking to allay fears for residents living in the district when they go to the voting booth next month.
The school district has placed a proposed renewal tax levy on the ballot in the upcoming election, for a 1.5 mill general permanent improvement levy. The levy, which is equivalent to 15 cents per $100 of valuation, is for five years and would begin in 2016 if passed by the electorate.
An equivalent 1.5 mill permanent improvement levy passed in 2012 by a large margin.
Since signs have gone up around town, it seems that there has been some confusion about what the levy is for, and GEVS Superintendent Chris Burrows sought to explain the reasoning behind the proposed levy.
“It’s a permanent improvement levy,” Burrows said. “It just means that we can spend our money on things that are going to permanently improve our facilities. The way that I really like to explain it is what you or I would do in our own homes for improvement. Anything that we can do there, that’s what permanent improvement money is for.
“I just wanted to clarify for our community and our tax payers, that his levy is for five years. At the end of five years, they’ll have another opportunity to tell us whether they think we’re spending their money appropriately or not, and say yes or no.”
Permanent improvement levy money cannot be used for salaries or benefits, according to Burrows. But what the school can spend the money on are infrastructure improvements, such as energy efficient lighting and equipment, new sidewalks and asphalt, new routers to increase the school’s wifi capability, and adding new class resources.
“We’ve tried to spend that permanent improvement money (in the past) on things that will reduce our general fund expenditures,” Burrows said. “For example, LED (light emitting diodes) lighting is an expenditure our of permanent improvement funds, but then our general fund expenditures go down because of energy savings. It’s like what you’d do in your own home, just a good business move.
“We’ve invested heavily in technology. Every student in our district, from fifth grade to 12th grade, has an iPad, and we’re going to continue to do that as we roll things out. Curriculum is important as well. Textbooks are something that we’ve put on the back burner for 15 years waiting on technology to take over, so permanent improvement money can be spent on curriculum resources.
“So as we go forward, that’s where some of our money’s going to be spent. We’re still going to look at energy efficient ways that we can spend our of permanent improvement to reduce general fund expenditures. And then the technology infrastructure, I think sometimes people see the user and the device someone has in their hand, but the infrastructure behind the scenes is very expensive. From servers, to the wifi system, to the routers, it’s extremely expensive. That infrastructure is fairly new and what I say is on the bleeding edge.”
On GEVS’s website, they anticipate generating around $150,000 per year from the levy, but Burrows said that $50,000 of that money goes to debt payments on construction of school facilities. In addition, they’re looking at finding ways to improve upkeep of the middle school and high school, which are nearly 30 years old.
“We have to look at the overall general upkeep of our buildings. Our high school is a 1987 building, so there are some things we are doing with our HVAC system to really keep it where it needs to be, so we don’t end up with a total overhaul and repair that could be very costly.”
On the school’s website, the district says that if the levy fails on election day, permanent improvements to the school will either have to come out of the school’s general fund, or be cut from the budget all together.
According to the school’s five-year forecast last sent to the state in April 2015, the school spends nearly $8 million in expenditures per year, on salaries, benefits, school supplies, purchased services, and capital outlay. The school brings in more than $8 million per year annually, with a majority of the money coming from restricted and unrestricted grants-in-aid from the state.