June 29, 2016

Mostly sunny

Medina Schools going back to voters with levy

MEDINA — Citing rising costs and a growing school district, the Medina school board voted Monday to place a levy on the Nov. 3 ballot that would be phased in over three years.

The measure, if approved, would add 3.9 mills a year over three years. It would generate approximately $4.6 million each of those years toward operating expenses and cost the owner of a $100,000 house $120 the first year, $239 the second year and $359 the third year, Treasurer Wally Gordon said Wednesday.

The levy, a total of 11.7 mills once fully phased in, would be for a continuous period of time and generate $13.8 million annually. The owner of a $100,000 house would continue to pay $359 a year, Gordon said.

The district predicts a $13 million deficit in 2011 and a $32 million shortfall by 2012 without a new revenue source or drastic reductions in programs and services.

The board, in a statement, said the incremental levy was chosen because members hope it will be more financially manageable to homeowners by allowing for smaller increases each year. The board also has pledged to cut an additional $1 million per year over the next five years. Toward that end, programs and services will be reviewed and modified.

Assistant Superintendent Rick Forney said what might be part of the cost savings would be discussed in the next couple weeks. The board will do its best to not make cuts that affect kids, he said Wednesday, “but as you go along, it’s harder to do.”

A presentation Monday night by board member Mark Dolan noted all union contracts are expiring at the end of the 2010-11 school year, and the board will “work with our employees to see how to decrease our overall costs of providing services.” Also, all administrative contracts will be reviewed for cost reductions.

If the levy fails in November, pay-to-participate fees at the high school would increase from $100 to $400, according to Dolan’s presentation. Also, transportation likely would revert to state minimums, meaning no busing for high school students and none for students at other levels who live within two miles of their school.

The board said it “is sensitive to the fact that these are very difficult financial times,” and the decision to put a levy on the ballot was not made lightly.

“The board has had many discussions with parents, community members and staff since the defeat of the 2008 levy,” the board said. “The school district has been able to continue to operate without additional revenues since that time because of various cost containment actions that were put in place saving the district over $12 million since 2006.”

Despite those efforts, the board said costs continue to rise along with student enrollment — more than 200 new students since 2006 — but revenues are remaining flat and potentially could decrease.

March 2008 was the last time the school district had a levy for operating expenses on the ballot, and voters defeated the 6.9-mill request.

Since then, Medina has built two elementary schools with revenues generated by the half-percent income tax increase voters countywide approved in 2007 for school district capital improvements. The schools — Ralph E. Waite Elementary and Eliza Northrop Elementary — open this year.

Contact Liz Sheaffer at (330) 721-4060 or managed@ohio.net.