June 30, 2016

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School levies rejected

Operating levies for Highland Local Schools and Medina City Schools failed Tuesday night, leaving superintendents to emphasize the need
for a change in the way schools are funded.

In Medina, only 5,276 voters approved the 11.7-mill continuous levy; 9,554 were against it, according to unofficial results from the Medina County Board of Elections.

Without the levy, the district predicts a $13 million deficit in 2011 and a $32 million deficit by 2012.

a1-mg-color-4cols-stepp-copy Medina Superintendent Randy Stepp reacts to the news Tuesday night the 11.7-mill incremental operating levy for Medina City Schools failed 9,554 votes to 5,276, according to unofficial results from the Medina County Board of Elections. (Lisa Hlavinka / Gazette)

Medina Superintendent Randy Stepp said the district will have to cut 145 positions, totaling approximately $9.5 million. Pay-to-participate fees at the high school will increase from $100 to $400, and performing arts fees also will rise. Transportation likely will revert to state minimums, which means no busing for high school students and all students who live within two miles of their school, he said.

The incremental levy would have added 3.9 mills a year over three years, generating approximately $4.6 million each of those years toward operating expenses. It would have cost the owner of a $100,000 house $120 the first year, $239 the second year and $359 the third year, Treasurer Wally Gordon has said.

In March 2008, a 6.9-mill levy for operating expenses also failed.
In Highland, the 7.9-mill, continuous operating levy was defeated 4,051 votes to 2,695 votes, according to unofficial results from the Board of Elections.

Superintendent Catherine Auckerman said the district will be forced to “cut several million dollars from our budget prior to the 2010-11 school year.”

The last time Highland voters passed a new levy was in 1998. Since then, Auckerman said the district has seen an increase of 1,000 students, a new high school and elementary school and a reduction in state funding.

“In Highland, 70 percent of our general fund revenue comes from local and 30 percent comes from the state,” Auckerman said. “The district has not replenished the local share of that for 11 years. … We’re literally operating the district on 1998 dollars for a lion’s share of our operating funds.”

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

Auckerman and Stepp said the levy failures provide evidence that school funding needs to change.

“We’ve been talking in the school district for a long time that the current … industrial-age model for educating isn’t the model of the future, and we have been looking for ways to change the model and do things differently,” Stepp said. “One is to better educate our students; number two is to be more cost-effective.”

Auckerman agreed.

“The funding system in Ohio is predicated on a partnership between the state and local community … although Highland has not asked for new operating money from voters since 1998, other districts are forced to continually return to their local communities, asking for support of tax issues, and the result is ultimately division,” she said.

“What this is going to challenge me to do is get that model in place sooner than later,” Stepp said.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@ohio.net.