Sheridan school board struggles in face of levy failure

For the second year in a row, Sheridan voters turned down an elementary school levy and in a meeting after the election school board members took a look at where cuts are going to be made.

Last year voters turned down nearly $80,000 worth of mill levies to support the elementary and high school districts. This year voters passed a $18,376 high school levy by a vote of 314-282. But voters turned down a $67,380 elementary school levy by a vote of 243-271.

The levy failing is going to mean cutting a variety of things at the school including a dishwasher and lunch cashier position, a paraprofessional position along with cutting back janitorial hours, said Sheridan School Board chair Jeffrey Marsh.

Marsh and the rest of the board were apprised of the potential cuts by Sheridan superintendent Kim Harding at the school board meeting last week.

Harding did not return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment, but Marsh confirmed the specifics of the plan she gave the school board, which also calls for cuts in textbook and educational supplies, requiring parents to pay more for field trips and using volunteers for playground monitors.

The situation is grim, Marsh said.

The failure of the two mill levies in last year’s election sent a message that was received loud and clear by the school board, he said.

“There’s unrest in the community with the (school) administration,” Marsh said. “The board’s aware of it.”

However, making positive changes at the school and within the administration takes time, he said.

“The board is trying to work on this, but things happen really slowly,” Marsh said.

One thing the board is doing is becoming more involved in the operation of the district, including participating in teacher hiring and curriculum decisions.

“From this point on the board feels like they’re going to have to be more involved,” he said.

However, this was the direction the board was going anyway and the levy failing this year doesn’t make a point, it only takes money away from education in Sheridan.

“The mill levy failing just hurts the kids,” Marsh said. “(Voters) did no good as far as sending a message to the trustees.”

The failed mill levy will mean next year the district won’t be able to make up the ground they’ve lost in the past two years. Their budget limit will now be lowered, he said.

The only way to make up the money would be to gain in enrollment, which is unlikely after enrollment trends declining in recent years, or by some act of the 2013 legislature that impacts the school funding formula, Marsh said.

School election results from the rest of Madison County.

In Ennis, Bill Clark and Craig George beat out Chad Coffman and Josh Vujovich for two spots on the Ennis School Board. Clark received the most votes with 599, George received 585, Vujovich received 557 and Coffman received 505.

In Twin Bridges, voters overwhelmingly approved a $20,000 school mill levy by a vote of 191 – 87.

In Harrison, Todd Brennan won a second term on the school board, beating Jenny Collins 101-27. Harrison had a 28 percent voter turnout.

In Sheridan, the $18,376 high school general fund levy passed narrowly by a vote of 314-282. However, the $67,380 elementary school levy failed narrowly 243-271.

Also in Sheridan, three school board seats were uncontested.

Rhonda Boyd was re-elected to represent the Sheridan High School District on the board and Travis John Derby and John R. Hamilton were both elected to represent the entire school district.

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