Warren board discusses renewal levies

WARREN – Warren City Schools officials are exploring ways to reduce spending and increase revenue ahead of the 5-year forecast set to be approved next month.

In a special Financial Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday, treasurer Angela Lewis and Public Financial Resources consultant Ernie Strawser discussed the district’s current revenue and expenditures and ways to improve them, including the consideration of a substitute levy.

The district has been operating under two emergency levies – one since 1986 and the other 1994 – both of which are up for renewal again this year. The smaller of the two levies, last renewed at 4.3 mills, has been renewed a total of six times and raised about $1.8 million. The larger one, last renewed in 2008 at 8.85 mills, has been renewed three times for a total of about $3.9 million.

“You’re going to have to renew (those) two levies,” Strawser advised.

Lewis proposed combining the two levies into one substitute levy in order to renew for continuing or a 10-year-period as well as ease voter fatigue. She and other officials commended Warren voters for their support of the district.

“They go over and above what they do for our district,” she said.

By combining the levies into a substitute levy, which still works like an emergency levy, the district will not lose state reimbursement money. In addition, taxpayers will not see an increase on current property, but only on new land or property improvements in the district.

“It’s obvious since 1996 and 1984 that we do have the need for (the levies). These are integral parts of our budget,” she said.

Strawser said the levies also could be converted into separate substitute levies, but he advised officials to take steps now to bend the trend back, whether it be revenue or expenses, but particulary with regard to building operations.

“You need to look at how your librarians, media centers, classroom aides … compare with similar districts,” he said.

The district already has taken measures to save money, including the restructuring and reorganization of four central office positions last month.

“Looking at our 5-year forecast, we’re already in deficit spending,” Notar said shortly after the board approved his recommendation to eliminate the administrative positions, a move that he said is saving the district $449,000 per year. “We’re just being proactive,” he said.

The official 5-year forecast is still being drafted, Lewis said, but will be submitted to the board for approval during its regular meeting in May.