Howland district asks for 3.9-mill levy

HOWLAND – Taxpayers are being asked to consider an emergency levy for Howland Schools in the hopes of starting an all-day kindergarten. That 10-year, 3.9-mill emergency operating levy is in addition to a countywide levy that taxpayers must pay now that the district has joined the Trumbull Career and Technical Center.

The emergency levy on the May ballot would cost an additional $136 per year for every $100,000 in property value and would raise $2 million annually. Trumbull County Deputy Auditor Christy Sosteric has said the TCTC levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home roughly $76 per year.

While the district will save $400,000 per year – Howland’s fee to A-Tech – residents will automatically have to pay the TCTC’s 10-year, 2.4-mill levy. Although the levy is up for renewal this year, Howland won’t officially join TCTC until 2015 and, as such, its taxpayers won’t be able to vote on the renewal of the countywide tax.

However, the levy will be collected from Howland residents through 2015, and if the rest of the county approves the renewal this year, Howland residents must pay it through 2025.

Superintendent John Sheets has said he isn’t asking Howland taxpayers to pay any more than taxpayers in any other Trumbull County district already pay for students to attend TCTC.

“Savings from TCTC is not the answer to our fiscal distress. It’s part of the recovery process,” he said.

Without passage of the 10-year, 3.9-mill emergency operating levy, Howland will be the only school district in Trumbull County to have half-day kindergarten.

The district in February postponed an elementary reconfiguration plan that would have saved $500,000. Plans were to have separate grade-level buildings for kindergarten and first, another for second and third, and a third for fourth and fifth.

Sheets has said if all-day kindergarten is implemented, North Road Intermediate School, which would have been closed under the plan, will to stay open since 10 units of kindergarten would need to be housed in more than one building.

The levy is needed to strengthen learning, update textbooks, maintain programs, replace buses, add technology and enhance safety and security, Sheets said.

The district’s five-year forecast has the district in the red $12 million by 2018. Sheets said the deficit is due to decreases in state funding and property tax valuation. Officials have said some of the lost funding is attributed to a loss in students to open enrollment and charter schools.

Sheets said the district has already taken steps to cut costs, including the elimination of 37 teaching positions and six years of base wage freezes.