ST. PARIS – As we prepare to turn the calendar to 2017, I am reminded how quickly a school year can fly by. This is especially the case this year. We are off to a great start, and I want to sincerely thank this community, our staff and students for making this school year, and my transition, a positive one.
When January arrives, our board must take a serious look at the district’s financial future. A ballot issue is a necessity to move forward. Without a doubt, Graham Local Schools has made it through very lean years that included many deep cuts to the budget. We did what it took to balance the budget and our work helped delay asking the community for additional funding.
Now, however, we are beginning to exhaust that path. We cut, reduced and stretched our funding. Now, our remaining funds will be exhausted unless additional funding is secured, or unless even deeper cuts are made. That is why the Board is planning ahead for an earned income tax issue now. Even with additional funds from this levy, our district would not collect new revenues until late spring 2018. We can only operate for approximately 22 days past 2018-19 unless additional funds are secured, or unless serious cuts are made.
Making additional cuts beyond what we have already made is a crippling option. More cuts would greatly harm our students and schools. That is not the Graham that I believe any of us envision for our students. Even worse, it is only a short-term solution that delays the need further and potentially makes it more expensive for everyone the later we wait.
That is why this school board is researching a ballot issue for November 2017. In the coming months they will continue discussions, and I encourage you to ask questions and learn more as we go along.
In the meantime, we will continue to seek ways to remain efficient and frugal while keeping costs low. Already our operating tax rate is the lowest in our seven county area. As well, we send more dollars to the classroom and spend less on administration than the state average. We have done our part to stretch our dollars. Soon it will be time to determine together what we want Graham to look like for the future.
Thank you for being a part of the conversation. Thank you for supporting our students and schools. Let’s soar together in 2017 and beyond.
Kirk Koennecke is superintendent of Graham Local Schools.