Educating children has always been on the forefront of people’s minds in Hastings as well as the surrounding area.
When it comes to supporting schools, the patrons of the Hastings area have stepped up time and again.
In the past decade alone, the patrons of Hastings Public Schools overwhelmingly approved the Elementary Facilities Improvement Plan to overhaul five buildings for $21.5 million.
In addition, patrons of neighboring Adams Central approved a $19.7 million bond for a new single-site elementary, which opened this year, and just a few months ago, patrons a little farther down the road at Silver Lake Public Schools approved a $3.8 million bond for a new elementary school.
And each of those three bond elections was approved by an overwhelming majority of voters.
So when it comes to education, there really isn’t a question about the amount of support patrons here have for their schools.
Now, the administration and board of education at Hastings Public Schools certainly hope that agreeable trend continues in regard to a current ballot issue that registered voters in Hastings have received in the mail.
However, this bond request is a bit different from other ones in that it won’t result in the construction of a new building or the restoration and preservation of a community architectural treasure.
Instead, this bond measure is asking voters to override the maximum levy rate by 7 cents in order to collect enough property tax dollars to help cover expenses for the next five years.
In doing so, the district will then decrease its bond fund by 7 cents making it a levy neutral proposition for taxpayers, which explains why many of you have been hearing the term “levy neutral” so much lately as it relates to this ballot measure.
In short, what it all means is that the levy rate charged to property owners in the Hastings Public Schools District won’t increase by supporting this measure.
The reason for the bond measure and this confusing explanation is that district is facing a $2 million to $2.5 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year and even greater budget challenges down the road, primarily because of a significant loss in the amount of state aid the district receives.
Because of this reality, the district already has made cuts for the upcoming year, including the reduction of 15 paraeducators at the elementary level and the elimination of a secondary intramural program. In addition, the district has postponed scheduled maintenance on buildings and deferred future expenditures for materials and technology.
But school officials know that you can only do so much of that for so long before matters are made worse.
That’s why the administration and school board want to avoid making more cuts and delaying maintenance work and the purchase of educational materials in the future, as the district fears such actions would only be a detriment to students.
That’s also why they found a way to keep any of that from happening without putting any additional tax burden on patrons who have so overwhelmingly supported the district in the past.
By voters approving this “levy neutral” bond override measure they will help the district gradually work through this budget crisis and, more importantly, avoid a major disruption in the quality of education for students.