Voters in the Gladstone School District are being asked to go to the polls on Tuesday, Feb. 26, to vote on renewal of the 18-mil non-homestead tax. This is a tax on second homes, business property, and rental property, and does not affect a taxpayer's primary residence (homestead property). This vote is not a tax increase for anyone, and is simply a renewal of a tax levy which has been in place since the passage of Proposal A in 1994.
If this millage is not renewed, the Gladstone School District will lose about $1 million in revenue, or about 9 percent of our annual budget. This is a loss we cannot afford, equaling about 15-20 jobs. The only way to compensate for this funding loss would be to severely curtail our educational offerings, reduce staff, and increase class sizes.
Even after enduring years of reduced funding as a result of state funding cuts and declining enrollment, Gladstone Schools have continued to offer a high quality education to our students. As a testament to our efforts, our current student count includes nearly 10 percent schools-of-choice students. We take great pride in our classroom offerings, staff, facilities, and extra-curricular programs.
To those who say that we need to live within our means, I would say that we have done so. Over the past 10 years, we have cut our total budget by over $1.5 million, and our teachers, administrators, and non-instructional staff have worked together to insure that Gladstone continues to provide excellence in education.
We have eliminated positions at all levels, closed a school, reduced energy consumption in our buildings, and our staff have made concessions which have helped us balance our budget. Those concessions include wage and salary freezes in some years, changes in health insurance plans, and significant contributions towards the cost of health insurance for all employees. We will continue to look for savings wherever we can, but the loss of a million dollars is not something we can make up without draconian cuts.
This election has been publicized through front page articles in the Daily Press, news stories and interviews on local radio stations, meetings with local service clubs and other organizations, and a public forum at the Feb. 18 school board meeting.
Information has also been available on the district website for months. In no way have we tried to keep this upcoming election a secret, or keep it off the radar screens of district voters.
Voters in the Gladstone District supported us last year in passing the bond proposal that allowed us to make significant improvements to our buildings, and even more improvements are forthcoming. That funding cannot be used for general operations, salaries, textbooks, or anything other than what was included in the bond proposal. We have shown we can be good stewards of the funding taxpayers entrusted us with by finding the most cost efficient means to improve our facilities. We promised taxpayers that the millage rate for the bond proposal, which has been dropping steadily over the life of the bonds, would not exceed 7 mils; in this first year we have reduced the millage to 6.55 mils.
For more information regarding the millage renewal vote, please visit our website, www.gladstoneschools.com, contact the superintendent's office at 906-428-2417, or contact any school board member.
Please join me in voting "Yes" on the non-homestead renewal on Feb. 26.
Linda Howlett, President
Gladstone School Board