Shawnee board looking to May levy

By Josh Ellerbrock -

SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — While the Shawnee school board didn’t officially pass a resolution placing a tax levy on the May ballot, the board’s discussion during a special meeting Thursday night made it clear that the board is looking to ask voters a second time to reconsider the district’s need.

“It’s almost expected,” Superintendent James Kanable said. “I don’t think it’s overstated.”

“Before making cuts to impact the classroom, we want to give the public another chance to weigh in to decide what the Shawnee school district is going to look like,” Kanable said.

Current five-year estimates show the school’s budget issues “snowballing” without additional revenue, Kanable said, and even with $400,000 worth of cuts in place for next year, any more tightening has the potential to impact the educational quality given to students if taxpayers don’t approve an injection of funds.

“A lot of people don’t understand the situation that the school could be in,” Board Vice President Clay Balyeat said.

“Personally, I think we need to go back,” Board Member Kenny Gross said. “I think we have to.”

But while board members spoke in favor of a second try, they readily admitted that it may be a tough sell, especially when many in the community may not be as well informed about the district’s need as the board would like.

To better understand why the levy failed in the first place, the board invited Larry Stayonovich, a Shawnee resident who wrote a letter to the editor opposing the tax levy, to tell them how to better communicate the district’s needs.

“It’s a tough sell. We need people like yourself figuring out what we need to look at,” Balyeat said to Stayonovich. “It’s a big endeavor ahead of us if we want to put it on the next ballot.”

Board Member Jerome O’Neal said the last levy campaign had many individuals, including district employees, failing to support the tax increase. Another attempt at the ballot box, he said, will need a groundswell of support and an active campaign to ensure a second try isn’t another failed effort.

Voters rejected a 10-year 4.482 mill additional tax levy by a vote of 3,978 to 3,385 just this past November.

In related news, the Shawnee school board also discussed amending the Shawnee booster policy to better regulate the finances of fundraising organizations using the Shawnee school district’s name. This past year, two women involved with such programs pleaded guilty to stealing close to $50,000 each. The latest, Kimberly Hall, was sentenced for stealing from the Shawnee Baseball Boosters Association just a week prior to the additional levy’s defeat at the polls.

The board will consider an official resolution of intent to place a $1.95 million 5-year levy on the May ballot during its next scheduled meeting, Dec. 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the board room.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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