HAMILTON — The Hamilton Community Schools board next month must decide on the amount of a proposed property tax increase that will be included in a referendum question on the November election ballot, board President Mark Gould said Monday.
The school board discussed the proposed referendum rate during its regular meeting Monday night.
“Next month, we’ll have to decide what the language on the referendum will be,” Gould said. “What tax rate will be a part of that?”
The district is pursuing a second referendum on a proposed property tax increase to operate the schools, after a failed referendum last November. A tax increase approved by a referendum in 2012 expires at the end of this year.
Residents in the district voted last fall against increasing property taxes by 71 cents per $100 of property value. The rate would have replaced the current 44-cent level and would have continued for eight years. It was described as being necessary to ensure the future of the school district.
“My concern is that whatever rate we set, assuming it passes, we live with that rate for the next eight years,” Gould said. “There’s no way today that we can know what the future will be like.
“Personally, I think we need to stay between 50 to 52 cents. That doesn’t mean we have to take 52 cents every year. It means we can go up to that level.”
Gould said the board also needs to consider the district’s employees when coming up with a proposed rate.
“I don’t think we can ask employees to do without raises for the next eight years.” he added.
Superintendent Tony Cassel said the board has a responsibility to the school and to the taxpayers.
Every penny that the rate is increased generates an additional $40,000, Cassel said. Increasing the rate to 49 cents would bring in an additional $200,000 over the present level, he added.
“I feel that the support is growing,” Cassel said of the referendum. “It’s a balancing act.”
Cassel said the board must make sure the rate is one the community will embrace.
“If it’s too high, it’s going to be a sad day come May 31 and graduation date,” Cassel added.
Cassel commended the district’s teachers, who he said are committed to Hamilton schools.
“I think we need to keep the staff in mind and a some point reward them for sticking with us,” Gould said.
Cassel said he supports a rate that is “in the high 40s.”
“I get the feeling that people are a little more versed this go-round,” Cassel said of the community’s understanding of the referendum.
In other business Monday:
The board approved school meal prices for the 2019-2020 year. Breakfast prices will be $1.50 for students and $2.25 for adults. Lunches will cost $2.60 for students in grades K-6, $2.95 for grades 7-12 and $3.50 for adults.
Elementary Principal Kristyn Watkins reported the Hamilton PTO has purchased school supplies for all students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Cassel announced the school will be represented in Hamilton’s July 4 parade. The goal was to recruit 100 people to represent the district. At last count, the number of participants was well over 100, Cassel said.
“We’re proud of our school,” Cassel said. “People are excited about it.”