HOWLAND - After several years of discussing the benefits of joining the Trumbull County Career and Technical Center, the Howland Board of Education on Monday decided to leave the Ashtabula County Technical and Career Center.
Citing fiscal distress and projected operating deficits, the board said the move to join TCTC, effective July 1, 2015, is in the district's best interest, according to the resolution that was passed during Monday's meeting.
"It's come to a point where our district is facing some fiscal distress, and at the same time, we want to do what we can to strengthen education and learning. This is one move we think is going to do that," Superintendent John Sheet said.
He said the goal is to both relieve fiscal distress and strengthen the vocational career readiness programs for Howland students.
Although Howland is in the second of a five-year agreement with A-Tech, Sheets said there is a clause in the contract that allows them to mutually separate if the district is in verified fiscal distress and notifies A-Tech.
The other part of the resolution passed Monday entails a motion of application to the TCTC, which would have to be approved by its board once their separation from the other center is complete.
"Hopefully, my board will see the value and I'm sure they will," TCTC Superintendent Jason Gray said. "For me, to have Trumbull County students coming to a Trumbull County career center just makes sense. The students can be spending that time in the classroom and not commuting.''
Howland school board President Warner Bacak said although the agreement with A-Tech has been beneficial, the move to a closer vocational school is a good decision.
"The kids that leave the school and go off campus don't have the ability to interact with kids in their class; they don't have the ability to engage in after-school activities with some because they don't get back in time," he said. The move also will keep the money local.
Both Bacak and Sheets said they hope members of the community will see the move as a positive one.
"I think some people have known it's coming, but it's not an easy thing for people to pay more money in taxes, but ... I hope they understand," Bacak said.
Gray said the move is still not set in stone.
"It's all contingent on the end of that expiration. TCTC welcomes them, but we can't enter into an agreement with them while they're under contract. It's all a waiting game," he said.
Howland is the only Trumbull County school district that is not part of the TCTC.
The district opted for A-Tech in 2002, when the former Gordon D. James Career Center in Lordstown disbanded, to save its taxpayers the imposed 2.4 mills required to join TCTC. A-Tech charges Howland based on the number of students enrolled.
In a September board meeting on the topic, district treasurer Thomas Krispinksy said that 92 Howland students enrolled last school year, costing the district about $402,000. Twenty or fewer made the 42-minute bus ride to A-Tech in Jefferson. Most of the students participated in work-study programs or multi-media classes offered at Howland through A-Tech, he said.
It costs the district about $8,500 annually per student commuting to A-Tech and $3,200 per pupil in the programs in Howland, he said.
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 TCTC.