An open house at the Northridge High School cafeteria Wednesday was poorly attended, with fewer than 25 people in the audience and most of them staff members.

An open house at the Northridge High School cafeteria Wednesday was poorly attended, with fewer than 25 people in the audience and most of them staff members.

The topic was renewal of the school district's 1 percent income tax, which will be seen on the Nov. 2 ballot.

One resident who did attend said the community would likely support the levy this time, in contrast to last spring, because it is a renewal of a time-limited tax, rather than a permanent extension of it.

"It failed because they reworded it," said Allen Bevier. "People want the right to vote on it. It's been a five-year district and it needs to stay a five-year district."

Bevier said he thought the change this time around would be enough to make a difference.

"I think so," Bevier said. "The community is status quo. Once they changed it, it was a renewal, but it also said permanent. It's a new levy. A lot of people looked at it that way"

Superintendent John Shepard said the district performs well academically and should be supported.

"We've met in this room several times, not always on pleasant terms," Shepard said. "But I come with some excellent news - first and foremost our 'excellent' rating (on the state report card). All four of our school (buildings) have received an excellent rating. That's an outstanding feat for a district our size, especially in the third year of a reorganization (of class structure).

"Our kids come to us with an excellent preparation," he said, "but they also have an excellent staff here."

Treasurer Jim Hudson reported that the district expected to lose more than $313,000 in one-time state funding from its current budget, and an additional $387,000 in federal stimulus funds. The district spends about $7,900 per pupil annually, compared to $8,600 for similar districts and well below the state average of $10,200 per student. The overall district budget is approximately $13.7-million for 2011, of which the income tax raises $1.7-million.

Hudson said cuts in state funding are expected. Northridge receives more than $4.7-million from the state for 2011.

"Right now, treasurers are being advised that reductions could be 5 percent up to 32 percent," Hudson said. "If we do lose 10 percent, that's about $500,000."

Board member Troy Willeke urged the staff members to campaign in the community for November's ballot issue.

"When we're out here talking to our neighbors and friends, the grassroots level, I think we should put it in real-world perspective for everyone," Willeke said. "Imagine on Dec. 31 your boss walks into your office and says, 'I'm sorry, but we're going to have to cut your pay by 20 percent starting tomorrow.' Ask yourself, is your mortgage company going to call and say, 'I know your pay got cut by 20 percent, so I'm going to reduce your mortgage payment by 20 percent.'

"That's exactly the same situation we're in here at Northridge," he said. "If we do not get this income tax renewal passed - it's no new tax - we're going to have to make those cuts."

Board member Mark Dann said the levy would simply maintain current levels of staff and programs.

"Who knows what the state is going to do with their budget, but obviously it's going to have an impact on us," Dann said. "There are funding sources that are going away

"Nobody wants to talk about cuts. It's never a good thing. You always want talk about growing and expanding and adding programs to your school," Dann said. "But the reality is, where we're at in this economy, if the levy is not passed, we're just not going to be able to afford the things we could afford in the past."

Shepard reviewed changes that might happen if the levy fails, including larger class sizes and the elimination of several support staff positions, including some guidance counselors and administrators, along with some teaching positions.

A fundraiser for the parent organization in support of the levy is scheduled for Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. at the Winery at Otter Creek, before the East Knox football game. The district is also planning an additional seven presentations during the next several weeks at the Alexandria and Homer libraries, the Hartford Town Hall and at the high school.