The Perry School District's tax rate is going down this year instead of up.

The school board approved a tax rate of $21.53 after a public hearing on April 9 on the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2019. The rate is a decrease of $0.05 from last year's rate of $21.58.

While the decrease doesn't seem like much, Superintendent Clark Wicks said it is a lot better than increasing the rate by a couple dollars. The tax rate for the past couple years had increases of $1.81 and $1.90.

Still, Wicks said the district has some tough choices to make going forward after it saw a total weighted enrollment decline of 97.3 students.

“That's a significant amount for our school,” he said.

The enrollment decline will mean a loss of around $300,000 in spending authority. Wicks said schools are limited in what they can spend based on the state funding formula of the number of students times what each student is worth.

The good news, Wicks said, is that Perry qualifies for a one year budget guarantee to offset the cost of the loss in enrollment.

“So for one year, we will be able to get by pretty well,” he said. “But it's going to be in two years where the challenge really sets in place for this district.”

The district's loss of around $300,000 from an enrollment decline is compounded by an existing $650,000 spending deficit.

Wicks said he has been talking with administrators since November on possibilities for helping to reduce that deficit. One way is through cuts in funding for each department. The other, he said, is to reduce the district's payroll.

“Not only has it hit the teachers that we are going to be talking about, but it has hit every department because we're in this as a team,” Wicks said.

The decision to cut teachers because of the $650,000 deficit, Wicks said, was not an easy decision. The master contracts were followed in determining which teachers were cut.

The school board approved the termination of the 2017-18 contracts for probationary teachers Shelbi Williams, fifth grade, and Barb Hackett, high school special needs.

The board also approved the recommendation to terminate the contracts for non-probationary teachers Amy Benjamin, middle school living skills, and Amy Skinner, high school geometry.

“This has been a difficult situation for the Perry Schools,” Wicks said.

And yet, he said, “We needed to do this for the betterment of the school.”