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Voters decide opt out for Hoven School in Tuesday special election

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Voters who reside within the Hoven School District will go to the polls Tuesday to decide if the opt out of the property tax freeze will continue for seven more years at a higher amount of $200,000.
For the past seven years, the Hoven School has been in an opt out for a maximum amount of $168,000. During the July meeting, the School Board passed a resolution for an increased request of $200,000. The resolution was petitioned for a vote, and a special election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 18 to decide if the school will receive the additional tax dollars.
Hoven School Superintendent Peggy Petersen said that the opt out was effective as of the 2005-06 school year, and that it only affects the funds used in the general fund. “During most of those years, the Hoven Board used the maximum $168,000.00, however, for the year 2010-2011 the Board requested only $128,000.00 of the maximum $168,000.00 opt out. There was a combination of factors where the entire amount of the opt out was not needed that year,” she stated in an email to the News. “The Board did exactly what they said they would do prior to the opt out, and that was that if they did not need all of the opt out, they would not use it.”
The school employs 17 teachers, one administrator, one business manager, and 11 support staff, with 23 members of the staff residing within the Hoven School District. There are 108 students enrolled from kindergarten through high school.
According to Petersen, the Hoven School Board made substantial cuts prior to the opt out in 2005-06.
Eleven years ago, during the 2001-02 school year, the Board cut approximately $154,000.  In 2005-06 the Board cut another $106,000.  “Since the last opt out began the Board has lowered the full time teacher equivalent by 2.7 teachers. The cost savings was approximately $122,000,” she said. “The FACS program was not cut but the Board now offers a virtual high school class option for students which results in a savings to the district.”
She said the reason the opt out request has increased by $32,000 is that it is virtually impossible for the School Board to predict exactly what the revenue or expenses for the school district will be each year for the next seven-year period. “The Board is doing its best to estimate the costs over the next seven years as well as what the projected income will be.  However, even with the $200,000 opt out, the Board anticipates that reserves will probably be lowered, but not to a dangerous level,” she said, adding, “In the event income is greater or expenses are less than projected and the entire $200,000 is not needed for a school year, the Board would request only as much as needed to operate the school, just as it did for the 2010-11 school year.”
Petersen explained that the total tax request for all four funds has risen only $7,400 from the 2005-06 to 2012-13 school years, even with increased operating costs such as salaries, benefits, and heating fuel. She said the $168,000 opt out and the proposed $200,000 opt out, which would replace the current $168,000 opt out which expires in October, were included in this calculation.
She went on to explain that the current opt out began in the school year seven years ago and increased the prior tax request by only $15,300.  The Board was able to cut the mill levies to achieve this.
“During the period of the opt out, the Board was able to actually lower the total tax request for some years, which includes levies on the capital outlay, special ed, pension, and general fund, by lowering the levies on all funds except the general fund,” she said.
Other points she included in her email stated:
• During the school year of 2006-07 the total tax request was lowered by $111,263.00
• In the 2009-10 school year the Board lowered the total tax request by $36,359.
Voters who are registered and live in the Hoven School District are encouraged to vote in Tuesday’s election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and located at B and R Trucking at the five mile corner west of Gettysburg, Hoven Elementary gym foyer, Tolstoy Community Center, and Lebanon Legion. Voters are reminded to bring a photo ID to the polls.
A map of the school districts in Potter County was published in last week’s edition of the News.
–Molly McRoberts

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