By Bill Petzold
MAYVILLE — More than a thousand voters turned out for a special election Tuesday and, by a 3-to-1 margin, supported renewing an 18 mill non-homestead property tax that will keep Mayville schools operating for the next four years.
The official vote results were 755 yes and 254 no.
“I was very pleased with the number of people we got out to vote,” Mayville Schools superintendent Rhonda Blackburn said. “It was a massive effort to make sure we got people voting. The lady at the election site said the turnout was huge. It was very nice, and we do have a strong backing here. It’s a great community; the word just wasn’t out the first time we voted.”
The renewal, which was on primary election ballots in February, fell short of being renewed by three votes, 491 votes yes to 494 votes no.
After the renewal failed at the polls, the school obtained the necessary signatures to hold a special election Tuesday at Fremont Township hall.
The vote was to renew a non-homestead property tax millage that voters approved back in 1994, meaning the district will continue to collect the same 18 mills on non-homestead property such as apartment buildings, rental homes, vacation properties, and commercial/industrial properties. The millage provides approximately $633,000 in revenue for Mayville schools which is roughly 20 percent of its operating budget.
But while the millage vote allows Mayville schools to continue to operate for four more years, administrators still face financial challenges, including tough decisions about cutting staff. At the June school board meeting, board members discussed the need to eliminate as many as four teaching jobs to be able to keep the school in the black.
“The discussion about the layoffs, those didn’t matter,” Blackburn said. “There would have been a lot more drastic cuts if this hadn’t gone through. Those cuts have to happen to balance the budget.”
Mayville school officials have taken proactive measures to save money where they can, but with falling enrollment rates and rising costs for transportation and retirement benefits, educators still are faced with the challenge of doing more with less.
“Our biggest challenge is, and always will be, improving academic standards and improving our students’ success rate, providing the best programs we can provide with the financing we have,” Blackburn said. “We have professional development in line for next year to help with instruction in the classroom, some research-based, proven techniques. We’re looking forward to seeing some of our teachers try some new things.”