DEL NORTE—The Del Norte School Board passed a resolution Thursday evening to place a mill levy override on the November ballot.
The decision came after hearing from the Friends of Del Norte School District and sharing a detailed discussion.
The district is asking voters for 12 mills, which would increase the average property owner’s taxes by approximately $101 a year.
The increase would generate $1,161,473 for the district, according to the resolution.
“We need to step up as voters and say we value our school,” said Del Norte School District Superintendent Nathan Smith at the board’s regular meeting.
“We need to step up to the plate.”
Today, the district collects 20 mills, which is considerably less than surrounding districts, for various reasons including state regulations and new building projects.
In 1996, the district collected 51 mills and up to 53 mills in the 1980s .
The proposed mill levy override does not have a termination date, would fluctuate annually and would not exceed 25 percent of the district’s total yearly funding , according to the resolution.
It would also readjust with supplemental living costs and assessments, and would be deposited into the district’s general fund, then expended for educational purposes including restoring critical budget cuts, mitigating future budget cuts, purchasing textbooks, computers, along with other instructional resources students and teachers require for effective, high-quality academic instruction.
The funds would also support college, academic, career and vocational programs to prepare students in the best possible way for the future.
The money would also be spent on enhancing the safety and security of students, staff and school property, while maintaining competitive salary and benefit levels to attract and retain high quality teachers.
“The increase of $1 million will replace the hole that was dug,” said Michael Hurst, president of the Del Norte Bank and a Friends of the Del Norte School District committee member. “Most (Valley) schools are at 27 operating mills. We would be at 28. It will put us in parity with other districts.”
The district is asking voters to increase taxes because funds are strapped due to state budget cuts and a decreasing student enrollment, upon which the state funding is based every October. Courses have been scaled back and some positions have been eliminated or absorbed elsewhere to make ends meet.
The board is concerned the trend will continue and that the district will cripple without local funding.
“We need to go for the homerun,” said Del Norte School Board member Steve Stephens. “Go for the max.”
Del Norte School Board member Ryan Haynie said he was concerned that the community will think the mill levy override is purely to give teachers raises. Their salaries have been frozen for some time.
“We are not going to walk in and give every teacher a raise,” Haynie said.
“Or every student a computer,” added Del Norte School Board member Wendi Mellott. “But we have to be competitive. We are not saying that we are going to give exorbitant salaries.”
Trish Velasquez, a Del Norte High School teacher and chairwoman of the Friends of the Del Norte School District and the District Accountability Committee, presented the board with documents in favor of the mill levy override.
She said 25 community members have been participating in the Friends of the Del Norte School District mill levy override planning meetings weekly for the past month.
The group has been working on campaign tactics, which might include post card mailings, door-to-door canvassing and presentations at local club meetings and events.
“We will educate everyone,” Hurst said. “We will tell them what this means for our community. The dangerous thing is, if this doesn’t go, where do we go?”