December 21, 2014

Medina
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Whether income or property tax, voters defeat 5 school issues

MEDINA — It didn’t matter whether it was an income tax or a property tax. Only one of the six school funding issues on Tuesday’s ballot passed, and one district — Cloverleaf — is on the road to fiscal emergency.

Black River

Black River had two five-year funding issues before voters in Medina, Ashland and Lorain counties, the areas the comprise the school district: a 0.75 percent earned income tax and a 3.8-mill levy.
The income tax, Issue 13, failed 2,232 votes to 844, according to unofficial results.

Medina Schools staff, administrators and residents await election results Tuesday night in the high school’s distance learning lab. The district’s 0.50 percent earned income tax failed 8,707 votes to 6,374, according to unofficial results. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JENNIFER PIGNOLET)

If approved, it would have raised a little more than $1 million annually and cost $225 a year for someone earning $30,000.

The property tax, Issue 14, failed 2,260 votes to 850. It would have raised a little less — $705,000 a year — and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $120 annually.

“Obviously the next step is to keep doing what we’re doing to reel in expenditures like we have for the last six years,” Superintendent Janice Wyckoff said.

She said cuts have been discussed, but there’s no cut-and-dry plan at the moment.

Wyckoff said her greatest fear is that the quality of education will go downhill.

Funding requests also failed in May and August.

Black River, which has reduced staff and eliminated high school busing, is projecting a $750,000 deficit by June. Along with reductions, the district doubled pay-to-participate fees from $250 to $500 and hiked the cost of preschool from $20 per half-day to $25 and from $30 to $55 for a full day.

Buckeye

Buckeye wasn’t able to break its losing streak Tuesday. Like voters have for 17 years, a majority again said no to additional funding. Voters defeated Issue 15, a 7.9-mill levy that would have brought in about $3.1 million a year, 3,190 votes to 2,268, according to unofficial results.

If approved, the five-year levy would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $248.85 a year.

“We’ve been having a lot of conversations with our administrative team and board,” Superintendent Brian Williams said Tuesday night. “We’re going to evaluate every aspect of the district to see where we can make reductions.”

The district projects a $1.1 million deficit next year and $3 million in 2013.

“I think we have a wonderful community and wonderful educational program for students at Buckeye,” Williams said, but added he’s worried “we’re going to get to the place we’re not going to be able to provide a quality education.”

Cloverleaf

Voters defeated Cloverleaf’s 6.5-mill levy request, Issue 16 on the ballot, by 4,593 votes to 2,854, according to unofficial results.

“Obviously, I’m devastated. I don’t look forward to the process of the state making decisions for the students of Cloverleaf,” Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said.

Cloverleaf has been on fiscal watch for eight years and has had to submit an annual recovery plan to the state showing it has enough money to operate.

“We’ll have to focus on state minimum standards and on money as the norm more than kids,” he said in light of Tuesday’s levy defeat.

He said a decision likely will be made within month whether Cloverleaf will be placed in fiscal emergency. If that happens, a five-member, state-appointed board would be in charge of the district’s finances.

“As of right now, we can’t even get through the year” financially, Kubilus said.

“We are going to do everything in our power to be an excellent school district,” he said. “Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I will be having some critical conversations with the board of education.”
If approved, the levy would have run for 10 years and raised about $3 million a year for operating expenses. It would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $204.75 a year.

Medina

Issue 17, Medina Schools’ 0.50 percent earned income tax request, didn’t fare any better Tuesday than three previous property tax attempts.

The continuous tax, which would have generated about $5.5 million a year, failed 8,707 votes to 6,374, according to unofficial results. If approved, it would have cost $250 a year for someone earning $50,000.

“I wish we had a greater success, but obviously it means we have more work to do,” Superintendent Randy Stepp said of convincing voters of the district’s fiscal responsibility and need for money.

Stepp has said 180 positions in the district were eliminated in the last two years and hours were reduced for about 200 positions to balance the budget. Teachers also are paying more for their health care premiums — 17.5 percent.

Voters last approved additional funding in 2005.

Wadsworth

Wadsworth Schools didn’t gain voters’ approval in August but it was a different story Tuesday. Voters approved Issue 18, a 4.9-mill continuous levy, 5,361 votes to 5,037, according to unofficial results.

“We are certainly relieved and appreciate the support the community has shown to the school district,” Superintendent Dale Fortner said. He said he was thankful to the levy committee and all the volunteers who helped “get our message out. Now it’s up to us to provide a high-quality education at a low cost.”

The levy will raise about $3 million a year for operating expenses and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $154.35 a year.

Without new money, the district projected a $7.5 million deficit in 2014.

Contact Liz Sheaffer at (330) 721-4060 or lsheaffer@medina-gazette.com.


About Liz Sheaffer