School board to discuss setting time line for telephone survey on possible tax hike

Survey would help determine if tax-hike vote will be pursued.

By MIKE ANTHONY

Lindbergh Board of Education members earlier this week were scheduled to discuss setting a time line on when to conduct a telephone survey of residents concerning a possible tax-rate increase.

The Board of Education was scheduled to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press. Board members on Tuesday planned to consider final approval of more than $4.7 million in reductions for the 2010-2011 school year — including the possible elimination of 44 positions.

District officials pledged in late 2008 not to seek a tax-rate increase for at least 24 months because of the financial difficulty residents and businesses are experiencing as a result of the current recession.

Though Lindbergh also has been experiencing fiscal woes, its reserves of roughly $24.6 million are the reason why the situation is not a crisis at this point.

The district’s long-range financial plan calls for a spend down of those reserves with a deficit-spending cap of $3 million per year.

In June, the school board adopted a 2009-2010 operating budget that projected a deficit of $3 million.

But a further decline in the assessed value of commercial real estate — including successful appeals by commercial property owners to the county Board of Equalization — increased the projected budget deficit for the current school year to roughly $5.1 million.

Officials plan to further utilize district reserves to cover the increased deficit, and projections indicate those reserves will drop to roughly $19.5 million at the end of the current school year. If reserves fall below roughly $13 million, the district would have to borrow money to operate.

Asked about setting a time line on when to conduct a telephone survey of residents, Superintendent Jim Simpson told the Call Saturday, “We are looking at a potential tax-levy increase election in November. We need to survey the community to get their perspective about that … We don’t want to run a tax increase if there’s no hope of passing it. And because an election now costs upwards of $40,000, it’s something you need to really think about before you put anything on the ballot, try to get all the pieces to fit together.

“So the telephone survey is scientifically based and it’s very accurate within plus or minus 5 percent within the time frame that it’s done, of course. So we need to sort of figure out when we’re going to do that and that will give us great insight as to whether to place an issue on the ballot or not to place an issue (on the ballot),” he added.

If the board decides to proceed with a telephone survey, a request for proposals, or RFP, would be issued, the superintendent said.