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Parents, teachers push NACS for referendum

Nearly a dozen parents, teachers and members of various parent teacher organizations spoke up Monday to encourage Northwest Allen County Schools board members to include a referendum on the May ballot.

Kathy Dougald, a member of the Perry Hill Elementary School’s parent teacher organization, spoke during Monday’s meeting, encouraging board members to remain on the path to success by putting a referendum on the ballot.

“We have always been a very strong and viable academic unit in the state,” Dougald said. “ ... Our staff has sacrificed on multiple things and are doing more with less. We’ve all done that graciously because we want things to succeed.”

A referendum may be necessary to keep things operating at the same level, and PTO groups are prepared to support the school board if they decide to move forward with a referendum, she said.

Superintendent Chris Himsel said the board will need to move quickly if it wants to try for a referendum. The board would need to pass a resolution for a referendum at the Jan. 30 board meeting, Himsel said. In December, the board reviewed a survey completed by NACS taxpayers that suggested residents were willing to support a referendum and understood the district’s money struggles. The district lost about $1.7 million in 2011 and $1.6 million in 2010 because of cuts in state funding, Himsel said.

This year, the district advertised a budget of more than $64.7 million for 2014, Business Manager Bill Mallers said. According to the survey, 80.3 percent of responders said NACS should pass a referendum to fund scholastic and support services and 81.9 percent said the district should pass a referendum to restore funding lost to property tax caps.

Himsel encouraged board members to consider the dollar amount that would be requested and suggested outlining guidelines for how dollars generated by the referendum would be spent throughout the district.

“I think it would be in our best interest to give some guidelines about how that money would be spent,” Himsel said.

Board members said they will consider the PTO members’ comments and discuss the issue in the weeks ahead.

Also on Monday, the board approved keeping a $1,900-per-year salary for board members and voted that officers remain the same for the 2014 calendar year. Mary Wysong will continue to serve as president, John Hilger will serve as vice president and Paul Sloffer will continue as secretary.