Colonial tax hike narrowly passes

It was close, but in the end 67 votes in favor of a $9.6 million tax referendum made all the difference for the Colonial School District.

According to the Department of Elections, 3,005 people voted for the tax increase of 35 cents per $100 of assessed property value; 2,938 voted against.

“I am relieved that the voters listened to our message to support the fiscal needs of our district,” said Superintendent Dr. Dorothy Linn. “I am thrilled that staff reductions will not be as extensive as they would have been if the referendum had failed.”

Colonial’s school board laid off 81 staff members, including 59 classroom teachers, after voters rejected an initial property tax increase of 47 cents of $100 of assessed value. However, Linn says last night’s passage means the district can ask the majority of those employees back, but not all.

The district also had to cut middle and 9th grade sports, and contemplated a pay-to-play sports model, which would impact parents. Now, Colonial says it will reassess programming and extracurricular activities in order to determine what can be reinstated within the boundaries of the budget.

“This is a bittersweet victory, and the reality is the district is still facing tough financial challenges,” Linn said, pointing out the district has not asked for an operating increase in 20 years. But taking into account state and federal cutbacks, the rising cost of doing business and federal Race to the Top funds drying up next year, Linn says another tax increase is inevitable.

“We will have no choice but to hold another referendum in the next 3-5 years, but the request will be for a much smaller amount.”

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