WILMINGTON — The message going forward to voters in the Wilmington City Schools (WCS) district is the 1 percent income tax brings in $5 million annually to the schools, and if it expires before being renewed, there will have to be cuts.
The WCS Board of Education held a work session Wednesday to discuss district finances in light of a second defeat at the ballot box of the proposed tax renewal.
Board President Michael Flanigan said the reality is when you look at the budget, to make a meaningful cost difference means shrinking staff or transportation.
“If we don’t have the money, we can’t write the check to pay the teacher; we can’t write the check to pay the bus driver; we can’t write the check to pay the janitor,” said Flanigan.
He said he and Supt. Mindy McCarty-Stewart had a phone conversation after last week’s primary election. Flanigan asked her to communicate to the full administrative staff that in the upcoming joint process to prepare a plan that can, if need be, reduce $5 million in spending annually, and that “there is no sacred cow, no pet project that is off the table.”
There also needs to be a real conversation with the voters, Flanigan said.
Similarly, McCarty-Stewart suggested a survey in the district to obtain information about what residents can afford to pay and would pay, as well as what WCS district residents want to invest in when it comes to schools.
She said whereas it’s true that enrollment has declined, there are other local needs “that schools now really have to be responsible for doing.”
Board member Brian Shidaker said he doesn’t know whether the public is aware of just how detrimental it will be to the school district if the tax renewal doesn’t pass.
The nice-sounding phrase of “cost savings,” he added, translates to “cuts.”
The board is considering closing East End School, which presently houses the preschool only, and then moving the preschool to Holmes Elementary where children in grades K through 2 currently attend.
It costs money to keep the East End building open, noted McCarty-Stewart.
Board member Carrie Zeigler, who a few years ago was principal at Holmes, requested a walk-through at Holmes so she and the board could see what it would look like for preschool to be “absorbed” into Holmes.
“I think we need to consider it educationally in addition to financially,” said Zeigler of the proposal.
WCS Director of Business Operations Curt Bone said the appraisal amount of the East End School property hasn’t come back yet.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.