June 26, 2016


ELECTION 2010 – Highland requesting levy

Highland requesting levy
Maria Kacik, The Gazette

GRANGER TWP. — The district hasn’t received any new operating money since 1998 and is asking voters again for their support on May 4.

The Medina County Auditor’s Office reports the 5.9-mill, five-year emergency levy on the ballot would cost homeowners $185.85 per $100,000 of appraised property valuation. It would bring in approximately $4.01 million annually.

Since voters passed the last levy in 1998, the district built a high school, opened an elementary school, and enrollment has increased by 1,000 students.

“Just the fact that we have been able to go 11 years without an operating levy is a testament to fiscal conservatism,” Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said.

The district’s most recent five-year forecast, filed with the state in October, projected a $5.4 million deficit in June 2012 and a $13.3 million deficit in June 2013 if no new money is received.

Since that was filed, a 7.9-mill levy continuous levy was defeated by about 60 percent of voters in November.

In January, the board announced cuts amounting to about $1.2 million annually. They included laying off 23 employees, modifying bus routes and eliminating the district’s summer school program and middle school gifted program.

School officials have said additional staffing cuts of up to 20 employees are planned for the next school year. Once those are implemented, total cuts will save the district about $2.4 million annually.

“I think we’ve done just about all we can on the cost side. We’re very low. There isn’t a whole lot else we can do as far as reductions without changing the whole landscape of what we do at Highland. That’s why this levy is just so critical,” board President Norm Christopher said.

In light of the cuts, treasurer Mary Markle said the board now projects the district will see a $432,000 deficit in June 2012. The proposed levy was recommended by the Highland Financial Advisory Panel, a group that works independently of the board to analyze district finances.

In a presentation during a board meeting earlier this year, the Financial Advisory Panel compared Highland’s revenue with other area school districts. According to the presentation, the district spent $8,423 per pupil in the 2008-09 fiscal year — the lowest of all Medina County districts and lower than the $10,184 state average.

The panel also reported Highland received the least in local, state and federal funding per pupil out of all the districts in Medina County. Highland received $7,400 per pupil and the state average was $10,322.

At its March meeting, the Highland school board outlined what would happen if the 5.9-mill levy on the May 4 ballot passed and if it failed. The following scenarios are posted on the school’s Web site, www.highlandschools.org.

Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said the board “considered a variety of scenarios across all areas for potential cost reductions.”

Stops were consolidated with budget cuts in January. All nonessential field trips were eliminated.
If levy passes: There would be no further consolidations and field trips would be restored. The district would establish a Parent Advisory Committee for Transportation to review the modifications and offer recommendations for additional stops.
If levy fails: Routes would be evaluated for additional consolidations and modifications.

Pay to participate
Fees of $200 per high school sport and $150 per middle school sport were initiated in January. Club participation will be $50 per club starting next school year. The family cap is $600 annually.
If levy passes: Fees would be reduced to $200 for unlimited high school sports per child, $140 for unlimited middle school sports per child and $50 for unlimited club participation per child. There would be a $450 family cap.
If levy fails: Fees would rise to $250 per high school sport, $200 per middle school sport and a $750 family cap.

Gifted program
The middle school gifted/talented program was eliminated in January. It is available at the elementary schools.
If levy passes: The middle school program would be restored and the elementary school program would remain untouched.
If levy fails: The elementary gifted program would be eliminated. The Robofest, Future City and Model U.N. programs would be eliminated.

Class size
The average class size is 21 to 25 students.
If levy passes: The average class size would remain the same.
If levy fails: There would be larger class sizes. Elementary school classes, for example, would begin at 30 students.

Twenty-three employees were laid off in January. The board plans to eliminate 17 to 20 additional staff at the start of the next school year, and to reduce supplemental and extended-day contracts.
If levy passes: The board could reinstate positions based on enrollment and program needs. Priority would be given to reducing class sizes, restoring gifted education and high school tutoring for the 2010-11 school year.

Building rental
Room rental fees were initiated in January.
If levy passes: The policy would revert to no rental costs for nonprofit groups.
If levy fails: Fees would continue for all outside organizations.

Contact Maria Kacik at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.