Sparta and West Salem schools among local districts going to referendum for April 5 election

SPARTA/WEST SALEM (WKBT) – Two area school districts are asking voters for more money.

We’re approaching that time of year where voters will once again head out to the polls. Among those items listed on the ballot are school referendums. The operating referendums will appear on the April 5 ballot.

“This referendum is different in that it addresses a budget shortfall,” Sparta Area School District director of business services Leah Hauser said.

Schools are still dealing with pandemic fallout.

Hauser says the state has frozen spending for K-12 districts.

High inflation is also causing a burden for schools.

“Our revenues are staying constant, but our costs continue to rise,” Hauser said.

The operating referendum calls for $4.2 million that would maintain Sparta school staff, technology and facilities over the next two years.

Voters could reject the referendum, but Hauser says if that happens, it would force the district to cut more than $2 million from its budget — meaning it would likely have to let some teachers go.

“So, now is not an ideal time to cut staff because our staff are the number thing we can do for our students,” Hauser said.

The West Salem School District is also asking voters for more money.

Its operating referendum is for three years costing $7.75 million.

“It helps us to project things a little bit tighter, because we don’t want to ask for more than what we need,” superintendent Ryan Rieber said.

The money will be used to update buildings, classrooms, and pay competitive wages to its staff.

“One of the best ways to combat that teacher shortage is to make sure that we find ways to keep our own,” Rieber said.

Rieber says leaders didn’t make the decision to go to referendum lightly.

“We’re not doing this because it’s a want to do,” Rieber said. “We’re doing this because it’s a have to do.”

There are also referendums for Independence, New Lisbon, and Royall school districts.