Local PTA leading grass roots effort for school opt-out

Local PTA leading grass roots effort for school opt-out by David Lias A citizens' committee of the Vermillion Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) hopes it can accomplish something that, so far, has eluded the Vermillion School Board.

It hopes to drum up enough support in the Vermillion School District to hold a successful opt-out election of the property tax freeze.

Without the additional funding the opt-out would provide, the school board will be faced with cutting $350,000 from the school's general fund for the 2005-06 school year.

Judy Zwolak, representing the PTA's opt-out committee, told the Vermillion School Board Monday that she had met with Brookings citizens who were successful in drumming up support for opting-out of the property tax freeze there.

"The key to their (Brookings citizens') efforts was it was driven by concerned community members who went out and got people to pledge that they would support an opt-out," she told the Plain Talk Tuesday. "They took these pledges to the board, before the board voted.

"I think that means we have our work cut out for us here in Vermillion," Zwolak said. "We need to form a group of concerned citizens who represent all aspects of our community, who are concerned about education and will work to convince people in our community that is important to adequately fund our schools."

A financial analysis of the school district, required by

the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, notes substantial reductions in the local school system's fund balances.

The report states that the district's economic position has decreased by $474,650, or 24 percent.

The district's general fund has shrunk by $241,310, a reduction of 26 percent.

The school district experienced a $21,935,587 increase in total property valuation in 2004. Growth in valuation increases the amount of revenue the district can generate from property taxes, but the total amount which can be levied is limited by the state.

The state aid formula for fiscal year 2004 ensured that property taxes plus state aid equaled $3,988.22 per pupil. The allocation for fiscal year 2005 has been increased by $129.72 per student.

The district's enrollment has decreased by 34 students, however. This reduction will mean the school district will realize only about one-half of 1 percent increase in per student funding this fiscal year.

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