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Friday, October 31, 2014
Schools see promise in survey
A cap-piercing budget is looking more likely
Chris Connolly
Earlier this year, the budget advisory committee of the Baldwin Education Assembly recommended that Baldwin’s school board attempt to increase spending by more than the state’s property tax cap for the district of 3.14 percent.

The Baldwin School District recently conducted a phone and Internet survey of parents and residents to gauge their receptiveness to a 2013-14 budget that would exceed the state’s tax levy increase cap for the district of 3.14 percent.

The district is facing a funding shortfall of more than $6 million as it looks toward the next school year — a deficit that, under the cap, would force drastic cuts to programs including arts and music, kindergarten, athletics, extracurricular activities and more. The district is exploring the idea that a 60 percent supermajority of residents might be willing to vote to exceed the cap. The phone survey was an attempt to gauge how large a tax increase the community might be open to.

The survey was conducted with parents of district students on Jan. 14, and was also available at www.baldwinschools.org between Jan. 14 and 16. The online version, the district said, was for residents who do not have children in district schools or who missed the initial calls.

The survey consisted of four questions. Below are the queries, and the distribution of public response.

Question 1: Would you be willing to vote for a tax levy increase above the tax cap to prevent significant program cuts?

Agree: 51.5

Disagree: 33.5

Undecided: 15

Question 2: Would you be willing to pay about $750 more each year in taxes, for the average household, with no major program cuts?

Agree: 40

Disagree: 48

Undecided: 12

Question 3: Would you be willing to pay about $550 more each year in taxes, for the average household, with some modest program cuts?

Agree: 40

Disagree: 47

Undecided: 13

Question 4: Would you support a referendum that would change bus transportation limits for students but offset about $1 million in program cuts?

Agree: 44

Disagree: 36

Undecided: 20

The results of the survey, compiled on Jan. 23, were the subject of conversation at a community input meeting that evening at Baldwin Middle School. Emphasizing that he, his fellow administrators and Board of Education trustees had received the poll results only that afternoon, Superintendent Dr. James Mapes said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome.

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