October 25, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
48°F

Growth necessitates levy at Highland

GRANGER TWP. — Highland Local Schools is asking voters for additional operating funds with a 7.9-mill, continuous levy on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said the school has seen about 1,000 new students and opened a new high school and a third elementary school since the last new levy was approved in 1998. She said the district also has seen a reduction in state funding recently and declining investment earnings.

“It’s almost unheard of for a district to go 11 years without new operating money,” Aukerman said.

The levy will cost homeowners $248.85 per $100,000 of appraised property valuation, according to the Medina County Auditor’s Office.

According to a presentation Aukerman gave to the school board earlier this year, the school district had a budget of approximately $26 million in fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30. Between fiscal year 2008 and 2009, Highland’s cash reserves shrank from $10.9 million to $8.8 million.
The district faces a $15 million deficit by the end of the 2013 school year if no new money is received.

Aukerman said budget cuts would be necessary if a levy does not eventually pass because state law prohibits school districts from operating at a deficit. She said the district would reduce various teaching, administration and support staff positions and some of its programming.

“That would translate into higher class sizes and fewer high school course offerings,” she said.

Aukerman said she and the school board looked at other options before placing a levy before voters.

“Obviously, with the current economic times, some of our residents have expressed concerns. But I think we’ve worked really hard over the last 11 years to be extremely cost-effective with what we’re doing,” she said.

She said Highland has the lowest per-pupil spending average in the county.

“This money is needed if we’re going to offer the type of education the community has come to expect,” she said.

Contact Maria Kacik at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@ohio.net.