Levy now or levy later?

Levy now or levy later?

That's the question Grandview school board members are trying to answer -- and they're asking district residents to help.

The board held a community forum April 9 to inform residents about a potential November operating levy and collect input before making a decision.

The meeting began with Treasurer Tammy Rizzo's overview of the district's finances.

Voters passed the district's last levy in 2010. The measure included a continuing 2.9-mill component for permanent improvements and technology upgrades and a three-year, 3.9-mill component for operating funds.

With the ongoing permanent-improvement funding, the district has been able to complete a number of major projects, including roof replacement and repairs; improvements to the HVAC systems in the schools; a districtwide security update; asphalt, sealing and parking lot improvements; and renovation of the high school and elementary school entrances, Rizzo said. More than $400,000 also has been spent to upgrade technology, she said.

In 2010, the board promised it would wait three years before it came back with another operating-levy request, she said.

"We've been able to stretch (the operating levy) for four years because of cost-saving measures and (effective) fiscal management," Rizzo said.

Since 2011, employees moving from the traditional health plan to the high-deductible health plan have saved the district about $400,000, and the district has decreased its certified staff by about two and a half full-time positions, saving about $169,000 in salaries and fringe benefits, she said. Cost savings also have resulted from Grandview's participation in natural gas and electric service consortiums.

The latest five-year forecast, a snapshot of district finances as of April 7, shows that without a levy, the $6.8 million cash balance the district is projected to have at the end of the current fiscal year (2013-14) will steadily decline to a $1.7 million deficit by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year, Rizzo said. The deficit would total $4.7 million by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year, she said.

A levy of 3 to 5 mills would have to be passed this year to prevent those deficits, Rizzo said. If the district waits until 2015 to seek a levy, an 8- to 10-mill measure would be needed, she said.

Local taxes make up about 71 percent of the district's revenue, Rizzo said.

"We rely heavily on those taxes," she said.

While the district is receiving revenue from the Grandview Yard project, only about $215,000 of that revenue is additional funding, Rizzo said. The remaining amount represents what the district would have received in property taxes before construction began.

After Rizzo's presentation, the 50 or so residents who attended the meeting broke into small groups led by school board members.

Participants were asked to give their input on several questions, including whether they would be willing to pay increased millage if the school board waited another year before placing a levy on the ballot.

The board also asked participants whether they had questions about the district's current financial position or concerns about its expenditures and what information they believe the community needs to understand in order to support a levy.