Howland weighs changes

HOWLAND – The board of education has been looking into several strategies that school officials say would strengthen education and school funding.

Among them are a levy increase that must be approved by voters, switching vocational schools, which would result in an imposed tax increase, and switching to grade-level schools.

The latter two strategies are being researched while the board focuses on raising support for a 3.9-mill additional tax levy in November.

According to the Trumbull County Auditor’s Office, the levy would generate more than $2 million a year for 10 years and cost property owners $136 per year for every $100,000 in value. Superintendent John Sheets said previously that the district has faced more than a $2 million drop in funding since 2011.

According to Sheets, the last time voters in the district approved an additional levy was about 10 years ago. Taxpayers would be accountable for paying another levy if the school decides to go through with the second strategy.

Howland is considering aligning with the Trumbull Career and Technical Center instead of the Ashtabula County Technical and Career. Howland opted for Atech in 2002 – when the former Gordon D. James Career Center in Lordstown disbanded – to save its taxpayers the imposed 2.4 mills.

ATech charges Howland based on the number of students enrolled.

Last year 92 Howland students were enrolled, costing the district about $402,000, according to treasurer Thomas Krispinsky. About 16 to 20 of the students make the 42-minute bus ride to ATech in Jefferson. Most of the students participate in opportunities offered at the high school through ATech such as work-study programs or multi-media classes, said Krispinsky.

It costs the school about $8,500 annually per student commuting to Atech and $3,200 per pupil in the programs in Howland.

The Atech agreement expires in 2017.

TCTC would require Howland to impose the tax increase. With an effective rate of 2.1 mills, it would cost property owners $76 per year for every $100,000 in value, according to the county auditor’s office. It would generate about $1.15 million for the TCTC.

”Why we are considering a change is because it is a stronger option for our kids that want to go into career training,” Sheets said.

A shorter, 12-minute drive to TCTC in Champion he said would allow students to be more connected with the high school and extra-curricular activities. Sheets said classes offered at the high school may not be necessary if the switch is made.

The district is also considering grade-level schools from Kindergarten through 5th grade. This would mean all the fifth graders would be housed in the same building, all the 4th grades would be housed in the same building and so on.

Currently the district has two K-2 buildings and two grades 3 to 5 buildings filled based on geography.

”It would make education stronger because all of the fifth grade teachers would be teaching in the same building and all of the fifth graders would be learning in the same building,” Sheets said.

This idea he said still requires considerable research, the superintendent said. The board could have a recommendation as early as the start of next school year.