Voter-approved levy required after $2.5 million deficit

Emma Kostroski-Polucha, Print Editor-in-Chief

Photo by Emma Kostroski-Polucha
The school board needs to implement another levy, but to make sure that they get the outcome that they want, there needs to be more information released to the public before they vote.

 The Stillwater Area School Board has encountered decisions they have not had to make for many years. The board will have to make cuts in many different departments from all around the district because of the $2.5 million deficit. These cuts are likely to affect every student in one way or another, although they would not be put into effect immediately.

In order to not make cuts, the board would need to decide on whether it would be voter-approved or non-voter approved. Both types bring difficulties in what would happen. In a non-voter approved levy, it would mean that the decision would be left up to the board members and would be out of the community’s hands.

“If you’re on the city council and you want to build something, or if you’re on a county government, they don’t have to go higher to get approval, but schools do,” School Board member Mike Ptacek said.

The voter-approved levy tends to be the more popular option between the two. This means that the community members would have to vote in the majority for the vote to pass. The school board does not have as many supporters as it has in the past because the decisions they make are not always majoritively supported by the public. Some members of the community are still angered by the recent decision to shut down the elementary schools. This could significantly affect the outcome of the vote.

“Only about 20 to 30 percent of people who vote in the district have kids in our schools. In the district, [there are] those who will say, ‘well gee, it should be up to the school board and those who say, no, no, it should be up to the voters’, and in most situations, it’s got to be voter-approved,” Ptacek said.

The effectiveness of the previous Stillwater levy is still under question, considering that it is only in its fifth year. The bond was for the tax to last eight years and 82 percent of revenue would go towards providing financial stability, 15 percent would go into investing in the Bridge to Excellence, and 3 percent would go to increasing school safety and security. So far, the voter-approved levy seems to be effective, and another should be implemented for fewer cuts to be made around the schools.

“This levy will generate $16.2 million per year – equivalent to a five percent increase in the district’s budget,” the Stillwater Area Public School website stated.

In the district, [there are] those who will say, ‘well gee, it should be up to the school board and those who say, no, no, it should be up to the voters’, and in most situations, it’s got to be voter-approved.”

— Mike Ptacek

It is not clear to the community how the money is being utilized and what areas are being reviewed. The board needs to communicate on just what the voters would be voting on and what possible changes would be made if the levy were to pass. If the board would like for the levy to pass, there need to be decisions made on what the money from the tax would be affecting in the district.

“The school board needs to tell us what exactly is going on, what this levy is going to be doing because right now, it’s kind of [messy],” senior officer and student council member Isabella Portelli said.

If the board were to decide on starting another levy, the most effective way to do it would be to have it voter-approved. Since it would be voter-approved, the atmosphere of the community would likely not be as tense. It would help the community join together to support the students  in our district.

“I think it’ll pass, only because I think that if there is a voter-approved levy, people are going to have to be informed on what they’re voting on,” Portelli said. “It’s not just about the elementary schools; it’s a lot more than that. It’s going to affect a lot of different parts of the community, so I think that if is voter-approved, I think people will be more informed [on what the vote is for],”

Students and staff in this district deserve the community’s support in this time of need. Make sure to vote for the levy; let us make sure that we show how appreciated they are and that there are people on their side.