Delavan-Darien boards says cuts first, referendum later

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Catherine W. Idzerda
November 11, 2014

DELAVAN—Go to referendum for the third time in a year or cut programs.

Those were the choices facing Delevan-Darien School Board members, and they didn't like either choice.

At a meeting Monday, board members told District Administrator Robert Crist another referendum might be needed, but first they needed to figure where to make another round of cuts.

The move came less than a week after voters turned down a referendum that would have allowed the district to exceed revenue caps by $1.25 million for three years. It failed on a vote of 2,966 to 2,689.

That's the second referendum that failed in a year. An April referendum asking for $2.1 million on a recurring basis also failed, and by a much larger margin, 1,727-1,163.

“I put the referendum back on the agenda because we obviously need the money,” said Crist. “The board has approved borrowing, but that doesn't mitigate our need for more resources.”

Board President Jeff Scherer said he approved returning to a referendum, but wanted to hear from all the board members.

Board member Joe Peyer suggested that board members and administrative staff come up with a plan to solved the district's budget deficit. Then, with that plan in place, the board could consider going back to referendum.

If the referendum failed, the board would have a plan in place and would have to follow through, no matter how painful.

“Just moving forward without a financial plan is not a good idea,” Peyer said. “The public has already said 'no' twice.”

Board member Roxann Kelton agreed, saying the financial plan should be “as solid as it can get,” and show the public what would be lost.

Board member Steve Logterman said one of the challenges was explaining to people how school funding worked. The decline in local property value doesn't help, either.

After the April referendum failed, the district made more than $1 million in cuts that included 18 positions.

“Here's what you have to consider,” Crist said at Monday's meeting. “Remember how heart-breaking it was to issue preliminary non-renewal and final non-renewal notices? Well, we're going to be right back at it if a referendum doesn't pass.”

In the coming month, the board will hold a closed session meeting to discuss program and personnel cuts.

After those cuts are decided, the board will reconsider going to referendum.

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