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Rockwood Voters Will See Tax Increase Proposal

Rockwood School District's board of education directors voted to place a proposal to increase the district's operating fund levy on the November 2011 ballot.

Indicating that "the Rockwood advantage" is in jeopardy, Rockwood School District board of education directors voted unanimously at Thursday's meeting to place a proposal to raise the operating tax levy on the November 2011 ballot for voters to decide. The actual dollar amount for the increase will be determined by Aug. 30, 2011.

The district's operating levy has not been raised since 1994, except as authorized by state statute.

Citing that the two major sources of district revenue are state appropriations and a voter-approved property tax levy, Rockwood board of education director Stephen Banton moved to take this step for the fall. Vice president Janet Strate seconded the motion. Banton said the situation was a byproduct of drops in state revenue, resulting in the district receiving steadily decreasing state appropriations.

Banton said the state's funding shortfall has cut into all state programs, and is having an adverse affect on education.

"Voters, the Rockwood citizens, have the right to determine what will happen. We [the directors] are not the ones to raise taxes, rather it is our job to provide alternatives when we see the Rockwood advantage is in jeopardy," said Banton.

Rockwood officials indicate they have trimmed $20 million in the past four years without undue impact on what occurs in students' classrooms. But as of Thursday evening, based on a report from the district's chief financial and legislative officer, Shirley Broz, the directors faced the fact that other reductions would be necessary, given the current circumstances.

Rockwood board of education president Steve Smith said it is obvious the district cannot fund what they all want to fund.

Director Matt Doell said it is a matter of deciding between two things no one likes:  a tax levy or accepting budget cuts on overall programs. "Both are distasteful choices," he said.

Editor's Note:  The most current, revised list of proposed Rockwood cost reductions accompanies this article. (Adjustments were made even since the May 5, 2011, list.) Reductions were provided as a one-page summary to Rockwood's board of education directors by the district's chief financial and legislative officer, Shirley Broz, at Thursday's meeting.


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