NEWCOMB -- The school district has chopped $400,000 from the 2013-14 budget and will now put it up for a June 18 public vote.
The vote will be Newcomb’s last chance to get voters’ approval. If the budget fails, the school board must adopt a contingency budget, which will require more cuts, including eliminating the high school.
Under a contingency budget scenario, Newcomb would have to pay tuition to send its high school students to other districts, said Superintendent Clark Hults.
“Hopefully, that’s not going to happen, but you have to (review) all possibilities,” Hults said.
On Monday, the board adopted a $5.4 million budget, an increase of $143,000 or 2.72 percent over the 2012-13 spending plan.
In May, Newcomb proposed a $5.8 million budget that increased year-to-year spending by $549,000 or 10 percent. Voters approved the budget, but the vote fell short of the 60 percent supermajority necessary for a district to exceed the state’s property tax cap. The original budget would have raised the tax levy by almost 25 percent.
The revised budget still requires Newcomb to raise the tax levy by 12.7 percent. The tax cap is 6.94 percent, so Newcomb will once again need a supermajority vote.
The revised budget, however, would result in a 1-cent decrease to the tax rate for residents who qualify for the Homestead Act, a state law allowing certain districts to tax nonresident property owners at a higher rate than residents.
Most of Newcomb’s residents qualify for the Homestead Act. For them, the new tax rate would be $2.81 per $1,000 of assessed value, Hults said.
Property owners who don’t quality for the Homestead Act would pay $14.55 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is a 55-cent increase, Hults said.
The state, which owns forestland in the district, is Newcomb’s biggest taxpayer.
In revising the budget, Newcomb has cut its entire distance learning program, and reduced funds for supplies, materials, textbooks, maintenance, overtime for non-teaching staff, training for teachers and stipends for extracurricular programs.
The school used to pay for field trips and driver’s education. Now, under the revised budget, parents will have to foot the bill.
In addition, the district will cut a full-time teaching assistant, a part-time teaching assistant, and a full-time employee who is part teacher, part assistant. These will be layoffs, Hults said.
A special education teaching position will be left vacant when it becomes open during the summer, Hults said.
“There was not a category in our budget that was not decreased,” he said.
School districts have two chances for a budget to receive the necessary approval from voters. If both attempts fail, a contingency budget must then be adopted.
A contingency budget does not require a public vote, but does come with restrictions on spending. The tax levy must remain the same as in the prior year.
Newcomb would have to cut another $600,000 to adopt a contingency budget.
Hults said the district has explored ways to reduce the budget by that amount, and has found no method of achieving it except by sending all its high school students to other districts.
Newcomb is a K-12 district with roughly 100 students. It has one teacher per subject. Cuts to teaching jobs have a greater impact here than in larger districts that have multiple teachers per subject and grade.
The district has used its fund balance in prior years for revenue, but has less available this year.
In addition, expenses are rising. All districts are dealing with the cost of health insurance and pensions, and these expenses have added another $200,000 to Newcomb’s budget.
Hults said the revised budget maintains the district’s academic strength while limiting the impact on taxpayers.
Residents can learn more about the proposed budget at a hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. June 10 at the school.