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School districts seek new funding from voters

By BOB COUPLAND

Staff writer

Brookfield and Newton Falls school district officials are seeking support from voters for passage of levies for new money to help their districts, and voters also will be asked to support renewal levies in Lakeview, Liberty and Niles schools.

In Newton Falls, the district is seeking approval of two levies — a 1.9-mill additional continuous permanent improvements levy to generate $231,677 per year and a 4.5-mill, five-year additional emergency levy to generate $548,707 per year.

Schools Superintendent Paul Woodard said the permanent improvement levy is to generate funds for buildings, grounds and facilities. He said if passed, it will be the first permanent improvement levy for the district.

Woodard said projects that need done are the school track, which has not had any work done for 20 years, and paving of school parking lots and roads.

As for the emergency operating levy, Woodard said funds are needed to maintain staffing and programs. He said to help the district save money, more than 30 employees have been cut in the past nine years, the elementary school building was closed, and school programs were cut.

“We have lost 470 students in the last 10 years, which is a loss of $2.7 million to the district. It is cru

cial that we pass both of these levies,” he said.

The students have left the district because of open enrollment and charter schools, which meant the loss of money from the district’s general fund, Woodard said.

Woodard said passage of the operating levy will allow the district to offer STEM (science. technology, engineering and math) classes, robotics programs and more college-credit classes that will allow the district to compete with other districts that currently offer such programs to students.

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.

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.

It will cost the owner of a $100,000 home approximately $66.50 per year for the permanent improvement levy. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $157.50 per year if the emergency levy passes.

The school district is trying to help its ailing general fund. 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.

In May, voters defeated a 1.75-mill, five-year earned income tax levy.

∫ In Brookfield, the school district is seeking passage of an additional five-year, 1.9-mill permanent improvement levy to improve security at schools and upgrade technology. The levy will generate $249,000 annually.

Superintendent Toby Gibson said the district needs to make security improvements to the school building and perform other preventative maintenance. The district also wants to upgrade technology and make sure every student has access to a computer, he said previously.

If it passes, the tax bill on a home appraised at $100,000 would be an additional $65 per year.

Treasurer Craig Yaniglos said the levy money will be used for technology, infrastructure, school buses and safety. The levy also can be used for STEM curriculum, and replacing three or four series of textbooks. He said for safety, there will protective film placed on doors and windows, and more security cameras will be installed in schools and on school buses.

Yaniglos said this is the third time the district is seeking passage of the levy.

“If the levy passes, school officials plan to create an annual report for the public showing how the money is being spent,” Yaniglos said.

Voters in May turned down a five-year improvement levy, which was the second time the 1.9-mill levy was voted down.

Yaniglos said officials have been careful with spending and watching the budget.

∫ In the Niles school district, a 10-year renewal levy to generate $1.3 million annually will be on the November ballot for day-to-day needs and operations of the school district.

Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen has said the levy will be similar to the one that failed in the May primary. That 5.6-mill renewal levy was defeated by 52 percent to 48 percent. The district has been in fiscal emergency since February and officials said passage is needed for the financial recovery plan to work.

Board President Mary Ann McMahon said the school board is hopeful the financial recovery plan, combined with better voter outreach, will allow the district to pass the levy and avoid some “very painful” cuts.

Other renewal levies are:

∫ Lakeview’s 3.8-mill, 10-year renewal operating levy that generates $1.05 million annually.

∫ Liberty’s 7.8-mill renewal for five years to raise $1.77 million for emergency requirements in the district.

∫ Jackson-Milton schools, which includes some voters in parts of Newton Township, which is seeking passage of a 1.7-mill, five-year renewal levy to avoid an operating deficit in the sum of $383,088.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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