Staff Writer

VAN BUREN — Van Buren Schools voters on Tuesday rejected the district’s request for a 1 percent income tax by 987 votes (55.7 percent) to 784 (44.3 percent).

Superintendent Tim Myers said it’s “very likely” the school board will consider putting either the same request or a new one on the spring primary ballot, since the district’s need isn’t going away.

The revenue would have addressed recent deficit spending by Van Buren, one of the only school districts in Hancock County without an income tax.

Expenses exceeded revenue by $331,720 in fiscal year 2016, $625,682 in fiscal year 2017, and $402,675 in fiscal year 2018, according to a five-year forecast filed with the state in May.

A spending deficit of $1,804,314 is projected for fiscal year 2019.

The school district carried over $5,218,800 at the end of fiscal year 2018 and is not projected to have an overall deficit until fiscal year 2022, according to the forecast.

The tax would have raised an estimated $2,448,952 annually for five years, according to Treasurer Alex Binger.

Myers said Tuesday that he hopes those who voted no will ask about “why the need is there” and listen to the school district’s explanation.

He thanked staff, the levy committee and those who worked on the election for their efforts.

If another tax issue fails in the spring, the school district “will be forced to make some very drastic cuts” to programs, staff and activities for the 2020-2021 school year, Myers said.

Van Buren has decreased its per-pupil spending, Binger said before the election, but inflation and increasing enrollment are driving the deficit.

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