School looks to add levy

HOWLAND – School district residents will see a school levy request on the November general election ballot since the five-year forecast projects a $2 million decrease in tax revenues, officials said.

Superintendent John Sheets told the Board of Education this month that it has until August to decide what type of levy and millage and amount are needed to address the district’s financial problems. The district likely will need an additional operating levy to prevent downsizing and reduced services.

”A review by the board will determine what amount of a levy is needed,” he said.

The board approved the forecast presented by Treasurer Thomas Krispinsky, which showed what it faces in the near future. Besides state funding cuts, tax collections are down in the district due to shrinking property values.

Krispinsky said there are several additional reasons why the financial forecast continues to decline, such as increasing costs of employee medical insurance and the increasing costs to educate special needs children.

In its annual report for the 2011-12 school year, the most recent full fiscal year completed, the school district listed general fund revenues of $27.72 million against expenditures of $27.78 million. Revenues included $10.4 million in state funding, and $15.71 from local taxes, according to the district report.

The district spent about $10,154 per pupil, compared to about $10,157 per pupil for similar districts and a state average of $10,697 per pupil. Enrollment was 2,885 students last school year, according to the report.

Sheets said Howland voters have not approved an additional levy in a decade.

”In fact, voters have approved only one levy for additional dollars in the last 20 years. Howland schools have the third-lowest school tax rate in Trumbull County,” he said.

In order to help offset the financial reductions, the district has made reductions in staffing in the past four years, which includes cutting 15 teaching positions, one athletic administrator and one special education supervisor position. There has also been 20 support staff cut.

”This is still not enough to offset the loss of $1.2 million less from the state in addition to $800,000 less in local property tax collections,” Sheets said.

Sheets said an additional operating levy would allow Howland to consider the possibility of adding all-day, every-day kindergarten and other programs and help the district from falling behind with technology and textbooks.