CLINTON — Just one week after the Clinton School Board decided to reinstate the Instructional Support Levy for five years, a petition is circulating to negate that action and put the issue before Clinton School District residents at the polls.

Clinton resident James Law contacted the Clinton Herald on Monday and said a petition has been created that asks for the issue to be put in front of the voters.

The ISL generates funds to be used for instructional services, ongoing programs or any general fund purpose including teacher salaries.The funds for the ISL come from a combination of state aid, income surtax and property tax dollars. The community first approved the levy in April 2003, with the board setting it at 5 percent and increasing it by 1 percent each year. A levy rate of 9 percent was set for the 2007-2008 school year.

Ten percent is the maximum that can be levied. Last year the Clinton district received $188,888 from the state, $1,028,289 from the surtax and $105,418 from property tax for a total funding of $1.3 million.

Facing the end of the levy approved in 2003, the board’s vote to reinstate the levy would put it into effect from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2013.

Following last week’s board meeting, the public had 28 days to object to the action. To object to the resolution, a petition must be filed with the district’s business director and must contain 401 signatures. Clinton County Auditor Charlie Sheridan told the Herald the number of required signatures is determined by the number of people who voted in the last school board election. According to Sheridan, 1,353 voters cast ballots in the last election in September.

If a petition is presented then the school board has the option of withdrawing the resolution or asking Sheridan to place it on a ballot and hold a special election.

The history:

With a resounding yes, Clinton School District voters in April 2003 agreed to the placement of an Instructional Support Levy to bolster the district’s general fund.

With 5,780 votes cast, supporters of the levy walked away victorious with an unofficial count of 3,675 yes votes to 2,109 no votes.

The levy was approved handily in all wards except Ward One. A ward typically known for failing school issues, Ward One voters defeated the issue by one vote.

School officials and supporters of the referendum had a good feeling about the levy’s fate soon after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Just 10 minutes later, they had in their hands the first indicator of success: An absentee ballot count — made up of an astounding 754 ballots — that posted 501 yes votes and 253 no votes.

When it was over, 63 percent of the voters had approved the levy, which drew a strong voter turnout of 32.68 percent.

That vote was the second time the levy had come up for a vote, the previous one occurring in September 2002.

The Clinton School Board had been working steadily for 14 months to get an ISL in place, the first attempt being a resolution in February 2002. A petition process forced the board to retract its action and send it to the polls the following September, when it lost by about 100 votes on a count of 1,541 to 1,443.

The board again put the levy in place by resolution in early 2003 as a way of providing revenue for the general fund, which pays for salaries, programs and operating expenses, and had repeatedly been hard hit by declining enrollment and state aid that had not kept up with increasing expenses.

At the same time, the board still was facing increasing insurance costs and possible salary increases that were in negotiation.

The board, which as a result had been faced with possibly cutting $2.6 million from the 2003-2004 fiscal year budget, already had removed $1.4 million from it. While making those cuts, the board was faced with another petition process that forced the levy to a vote, leaving the remaining $1.1 million in staffing and programming in limbo.

If the levy didn’t pass those items would be gone, the board said. If the levy passed, the board would use it the first year at a 5 percent rate to obtain $800,000 and combine it with $300,000 in cash reserves to save the programs in jeopardy.

The latter is what happened when district voters took to the polls.

The property tax portion showed up in taxes paid in the fall of 2003 and spring of 2004. The income tax surtax was be figured in when 2003 income taxes were paid in 2004.









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