Students maintain their rain garden at Dutton Elementary School

Enhancement Would Help Maintain Class Sizes, Staffing Levels

by Erin Albanese  

On May 2, voters in the Kent ISD region will be asked to approve a 0.9 mill tax for local school districts, generating $211 per student to maintain programs, improve services and meet other needs. School News Network is offering information on what the millage means for each of the 20 districts in the Kent ISD. Today we focus on Caledonia Public Schools. SNN spoke with Superintendent Randy Rodriguez.

How much revenue would your district gain from the millage in the first year?
$1.5 million

What would you spend that increased revenue on, and how would this help your students?
Rodriguez hopes to hire more teachers to ensure a lower number of students in each classroom. To cover a budget deficit for this school year, the district cut $800,000.

Randy Rodriguez

"We had 12 teachers retire and we only replaced five," he said, which means increased class sizes and the elimination of electives. "The primary way we would use the money is to maintain our class sizes and maintain our current staffing levels."

The district is also considering using funds to cover direct services in mental and behavioral health for students; purchase resources and supplies for the classroom such as software, textbooks, technology and curriculum supplements, and maintain enrichment programs in athletics, theater and music.

"The key word we have to use is maintaining," he said. "(The millage) would not add anything new to the plate, but keep the level of services we currently offer for our kids. This is really the only opportunity we have to generate more money for operating dollars."

If the millage were to fail, what changes or cuts would you have to make next school year?
At the end of this year, the district will have to decide if it needs to reduce staff again. It faces a projected budget deficit of about $1 million a year for the next four years if the enhancement millage doesn't pass. Caledonia has a solid equity fund, though it has declined from 24 to 17 percent. Covering future deficits without budget reductions would diminish that fund to 11 percent.

"We are fiscally healthy, but the fund balance can quickly dwindle," Rodriguez said.

What objections have you heard, if any, from your community, and what is your response?
"Our community is very supportive of school district and community at the same time they are very conservative and are concerned about raising taxes. Thus far, they have supported bonds since the late 1990s and have been very supportive that way.

"They want to be well-informed. They have lots of questions, but for the most part we have received support. That being said, we are just starting to disseminate information. I anticipate we will have some concerns for raising taxes."

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Submitted on: April 18th 2017

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