By Janie Southard
Thumbs up in New Bremen school district as voters passed the 1 percent, five-year income tax levy, 1,239 to 930.
"I'm very proud of the community. The kids are the ones who are going to benefit," New Bremen school board President Norm Holcomb told The Daily Standard on Tuesday night after results came in. "Hopefully, now the state will come through and do something for us."
Without the income tax levy, which will generate about $872,000, the district faced a $42,000 deficit by the end of next school year, not even enough to make a payroll.
During the past 12 months, the board has implemented cuts for a savings of about $500,000. Additional cuts on the line if the levy would have failed included pay-to-participate for students in academic and athletic extracurriculars as well as the reduction of up to 9.5 teaching positions.
After the district's 6.3-mill operating levy failed last November, board members put together a series of levy discussions at the regular meetings in an effort to provide the community with information and also a forum to air questions and concerns. Superintendent Larry Smith and board members were surprised the 2003 levy went down as it was the first time in 11 years the district put an operating levy on the ballot.
Of the last failed campaign, one board member commented the no-voters did not ask any questions or indicate any problems. Thus, it was difficult to assess what went wrong.
One community resident advised the board the reasons for failure were the millage was too high and voters weren't interested in a continuing levy. Board members eventually decided an income tax, instead of a property tax, would be more fair for all residents.
However, even with the passage of the income tax levy, it's only enough to maintain status quo.
"The bad thing is this doesn't allow for us to do new things, but just to keep our heads above the water," Holcomb said.
After the final results came in around 11:30 p.m., board Vice President Mark Barhorst said he thought the vote would be a lot closer, but he was very pleased with the outcome.
"Finally, I'll get some sleep," he said.