Superintendent Ted Haselman didn’t mince words: If the Pike-Delta-York school district does not successfully pass an operational levy this spring the picture there will turn bleak.
The 1% income tax levy, scheduled for the May 4 ballot, is the same one more than half of voters rejected in the November election. Haselman said if it fails the second time around the school district will be forced to implement major cuts across the board that will affect both staff and students.
“We simply cannot continue to operate under these conditions. We either need to increase our funding or decrease our costs. If we are not successful in passing this levy on the May ballot, Pike-Delta-York will not look like it does today. There will be massive cuts,” he said.
The income tax would generate approximately $1,775,000 annually, to be used as operational funding. Haselman said flat revenues and increased expenses have forced the district to rely on the levy passing this time so that drastic measures won’t be taken.
“(D)ue to the defeat in the November 2020 election, and the loss of approximately $650,000 in collection of the levy, it has created a great urgency,” he said.
Steps to decrease spending during the current school year led the district’s officials to initially eliminate an administrator, three teachers, and one paraprofessional aide from the payroll. Following the loss in November a part-time aide and a full-time bus driver were also downsized.
Should voters again balk at the income tax levy the ensuing staff cuts would be more widespread. Planned cuts would include another administrator, nine additional classroom teachers, three more paraprofessional aides, two or three bus drivers, a part-time secretary, and a network technician.
And the extensive eliminations wouldn’t end there. All extra-curricular activities, including athletics, and the school district’s programs for gifted students, two-year kindergarten, and high school FFA would be chopped. Transportation would reduce to state minimum requirements, meaning no high school transportation to buildings and K-8 transportation only for students living more than two miles from school.
In preparation, the district’s Board of Education plans to vote on proposed eliminations prior to the May election.
“This is not a threat or ultimatum, it is just the facts,” Haselman said. “The board has been adamant to not request money from our voters until it is necessary. That first ask took place this last fall, and unfortunately we are in the same position. At that time I stated the need for additional funds has not gone away.”
Public meetings about the income tax levy are being considered, and will be announced when they’re finalized.
“We are optimistic the community will get behind P-D-Y,” Haselman said. “The district provides a great service to our students, families, and community at a very economical price tag when compared to other districts.”
That includes the second lowest tax rate among Fulton County’s seven school districts, he previously noted. Haselman added that, prior to last November, the Pike-Delta-York district had not requested a new levy since 2011.
And the school district continues to match the academic prowess of other school districts, he said. It received an overall B grade on its last two state report cards, tying for the highest countywide rating and joining the one-third of school districts statewide to earn a grade of B or higher. The district has also maintained high performances in numerous state report card categories.
“The Pike-Delta-York Local Schools district is definitely on par academically with other school districts,” Haselman said. “I wholeheartedly believe P-D-Y is as good a school district as any district around.”
Board of Education President Michael Mattin said the school district’s administrators recognize that money is a sensitive subject, and waited to ask for a levy until the district’s coffers became as lean as was possible.
“We said if we didn’t pass it in May then there would be significant cuts that we just simply need to happen. If you don’t have money, your expenses can outpace your revenue,” he said. “We will definitely have to cut in all areas…basically anything that would make a school what it is, we’d, unfortunately, have to cut that.”
However, Mattin said the school district places a lot of faith in the community’s willingness to support its schools.
“We would hope that the information gets out. There’s nothing to hide; we’ve been very transparent about why we need the money,” he said. “I’m confident that the community will come together and vote yes for our children and for our school system.”
Haselman said if he had a personal message for voters, it would be that they can take pride in Pike-Delta-York schools. He said that’s all the more reason to support them financially.
”We need to keep our district as one of the top districts around,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.