Voters will not see a permanent-improvement levy on the November ballot.

Voters will not see a permanent-improvement levy on the November ballot.

New Albany-Plain Local school board members decided Monday night to let the levy expire and allow the costs associated with the fund be absorbed into the $2-million permanent-improvement (PI) levy fund balance and the $16.4-million operating fund balance.

The levy, which originally was placed on the ballot in 1984 and has been replaced at 2 mills every five years, currently is being collected at about 1.72 mills and collects about $1.6-million annually.

Mike Klein, board vice president, read a prepared statement about why he thought the district could allow the levy to expire.

"I have thought long and hard over these past few months about what is best for our children and what is best for our community in terms of the expiration of our permanent-improvement levy at the end of this year," he said. "I understand these are difficult economic times. Because of our dedicated work of our administrative team, along with volunteer committee members who served on our community finance committee and expense subcommittee, this board of education has options in terms of what it wants to do. With that work completed, I have concluded that I cannot and will not support the placing of a PI levy on the ballot this year."

Member Doug Flowers said the district is in a good financial position to allow the levy to expire Dec. 31.

"From a financial perspective, we are in as good a shape as we have ever been," he said. "You don't get here by accident. For that reason, I don't see a need at this point in time. I think our facility needs far outweigh the PI levy."

Board president Diane Goedeking said she is concerned about how the community perceives and understands the district's finances.

"There is an organized group of residents that call themselves Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability," she said. "They have the right to ask for fiscal responsibility and transparency. The one thing that bothers me is the continued use of the word surplus."

She said the district has worked to build the $16.4-million carryover, and she said it would help decrease millage requests.

"It is very important that community members understand that the reason we do not have to go on this November is the carryover balance we have worked very hard to create," Goedeking said.

Earlier in the meeting, Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability member Philip Derrow addressed the board and administrators about NA-PLS finances, in relation to the PI levy and the district's year-end cash balance.

"I've spoken to literally dozens of people in the community, and the consensus is, the ability to properly mange the funds of the district is appallingly low," he said. "The inability to accurately forecast the amount of money that would be left in the fund for either the PI or the operating is appalling. It is really quite clear that the request for additional funding is constantly overstated and not needed. It has become completely clear that the size of the last levy was completely unnecessary."

He said public entities should have the minimum amount of money necessary for operations.

"This district has too much taxpayer (money) and is compelled to spend it," Derrow said. "I feel compelled publicly to ask for your integrity for the good of the district that the superintendent and other staff as necessary tender their resignations."

Board members moved on with other business without addressing Derrow's comments.

During the PI discussion at the end of the meeting, Superintendent Steve Castle acknowledged Derrow's previous remarks.

"I know guests come in front of the board and express their viewpoints, but the guest this evening has never talked to the superintendent or the treasurer," he said. "All of us have the responsibility to make sure the information that is stated is accurate. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with how money is spent, but we want to make sure that information is accurate."

After Castle and treasurer Brian Ramsay gave a brief overview of community members' opinions regarding the PI levy at both the first community financial advisory committee meeting and the larger finance committee meeting last week, Goedeking asked administrators to refrain from pursuing a ballot issue.

"I feel that the administration has shown strong fiscal management," she said. "At this point, it would be the directive of the board to not go on the ballot and use the carryover as we need to."

To watch video of the school board meeting, visit YourNewAlbany.ThisWeekNews.com.

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com