Newton Falls to seek additional levies in November

NEWTON FALLS — After voters soundly defeated an earned income-tax levy on the May 7 ballot, the Newton Falls Board of Education has decided to seek a traditional property tax levy in November.

If the 1.75 percent income tax levy had passed in May, Newton Falls would have been the first school district in Trumbull County to pass such a measure. The five-year levy would have brought in $2.1 million annually for operating expenses.

The levy was defeated by a 66 to 34 percent vote.

The board at a special meeting Wednesday approved a resolution placing a five-year emergency levy on the Nov. 5 ballot that will generate approximately $550,000 per year, according to Treasurer Julie Sloan. The millage amount will be determined by the Trumbull County Auditor.

An emergency levy funds the day-to-day operations of the district, and can be used for salaries, instructional supplies, textbooks, transportation costs, maintenance and upkeep.

“From the conversations we’ve had with community members, this is what they want,” Sloan said.

The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $157.50 per year if the emergency levy passes.

The board also plans to seek an additional, continuing permanent improvement levy in November. Permanent improvement levies are for projects and equipment that have a useful life of five years or more, such as new roofs, renovations and school buses.

The additional tax would be a 1.9-mill levy and would generate approximately $231,676 annually. It will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $66.50 per year.

“If both levys are passed, we would still be one of the bottom three property tax rates,” Sloan said.

The school district is trying to shore up its ailing general fund. Superintendent Paul Woodard said previously the school district will be in deficit spending at the start of the 2019-20 school year, which could prompt the state auditor to place it under fiscal watch.

Woodard also said previously the district has seen the loss of 450 students in the past five years to open enrollment and charter schools, which meant the loss of more than $3 million from the district’s general fund. He said the district has made cuts to staffing, eliminated programs and closed a school building to save money.

Woodard said with more money, the district would be able to offer STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and robotics programs to entice students to attend Newton Falls schools and be competitive with what surrounding districts offer their students.

Also Wednesday, the board:

• Accepted the resignation of Katie Kuzas as elementary / middle school guidance counselor effective Aug. 1;

• Recalled Anne Mingus as a first-grade teacher effective Aug. 19;

• Hired Lori Witt as elementary / middle school principal for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, effective Aug. 1.

• Moved payroll clerk Brianna Sloan from part-time to full-time, effective immediately.