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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

School board votes for new referendum at special meeting Monday evening

By a unanimous vote during a long meeting Monday evening this week, the Prescott School Board approved a call for a new referendum to take place sometime in mid-May to ask Prescott School District voters to again exceed the revenue levy limits, only this time at the rates they were previously.

The meeting took over four hours and drew so many citizens that it was held in the PHS cafeteria
Because of the “No“ vote prevailing in the referendum vote from Feb. 16, the levy went directly back to its original limit set back in 1993 when the levy limit was first passed. Four times that limit was raised since 1999 but this year was the first time such an increase was voted down.

The question the board will put before the voters is to set the amount back to where it was after previous increases from 1999-2016 with no additional increases in taxes after such an increase was turned down.

Without a referendum, the district has to close a budget gap of $1.46 million for the next school year and must make a 10 percent cut in the budget to do so. 

“I support another referendum for our students,” Board member Steve Sizemore said. “It’s obvious these cuts are going to have a major impact on our district, on families and students.”

The cuts, as put forward in a plan by District Superintendent Dr. Richard Spicuzza, calls for eliminating four bus routes (5,6, 16 & 17) in the City of Prescott, eliminating 12 fulltime staff positions in the district, cutting 10 percent out of the maintenance, technology, supplies and services budget; reduce part-time staff, end all subsidies to Prescott Community Recreation and Prescott Community Education (PCE) and put all middle school athletics under the auspices of the Prescott Community Recreation (PCR) program and increase fees for participation, limit district involvement with the new fields on Dexter St.; cancel the planned “Big Move” of grades 3-5 to the old high school, keep the portable classrooms at Malone and completely mothball the old high school building.

The aforementioned were the least impactful cuts to the district at $1.6 million. Options on the table also included cuts to high school sports and cuts to offered programs at the schools which totaled upwards to $2.3 million.

“It’s very sobering what we face here tonight,” board member Josias Franco said. “I know the staff and administration scrubbed this as much as they could to minimize the impact to children and we have to look out for what’s best for them within the letter of the education laws and funding we are mandated to follow. It will be a difficult task.”

See more on this story in the print edition of the Prescott Journal on newsstands Wednesday.

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