MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon School Board unanimously approved Wednesday a supplemental levy request for the November election ballot.
If approved, the supplemental levy would help the district make up for losses it incurred as part of the so-called McCleary Fix in which the state Legislature raised state property taxes and lowered the amount districts could ask of property owners.
If approved, the supplemental levy would add an additional 79 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value for property owners in the school district in 2020 and 54 cents in 2021.
Still, even with bond payments, levy payments and the additional taxes approved by the Legislature for education, property owners would still be paying less to the district than they were before the so-called McCleary Fix, Mount Vernon School District Finance Director Jennifer Larson said.
“We didn’t put ourselves in this situation,” School Board President Larry Otos said. “We’re trying to fix this situation now.”
In response to being able to collect less local levy dollars, the school board approved in May about $3.9 million in cuts from the district’s 2019-20 budget. That included cutting nearly 15 teaching positions and its districtwide fifth grade science camp, cuts to the athletics department, and closing two of the district’s after-school family support centers.
“We gutted a number of services and programs for 2019-2020,” Superintendent Carl Bruner said. “There’s simply no other way to describe it: We gutted it.”
Though the state later increased the amount districts could collect — allowing the district to pull back on about $1 million in cuts — that will not get the district back to where it was before the McCleary Fix, Bruner said.
“We would not be sitting here if we had not lost the capacity to provide mission-critical services for students and staff,” Bruner said. “It’s not because the Legislature said we can go out and ask for money, so let’s go do that — we would much rather not have to go out for a supplemental levy. But we’re in a huge bind.”
Even if the supplemental levy is approved, the district won’t be able to collect the additional taxes until 2020, so cuts for this school year still have to be made, Larson said.
“It will be felt on Sept. 5,” she said. “That’s when the rubber hits the road.”