June 28, 2016

Mostly clear

Medina Schools holds levy discussion to garner opinions

MEDINA — Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp said the school board has “a very short window of time” to make a decision on whether to place a levy on the May 7 primary ballot.

The board is facing a Feb. 6 deadline for filing an issue with the Medina County Board of Elections.

Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp speaks during a community meeting Wednesday at Medina High School. School officials are asking the public for feedback on a possible levy. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

On Wednesday evening, school board members heard from the public at the first in a series of meetings on the proposed levy.

Sue Symonds, of Medina, was one of 62 people, including 17 district employees, who attended the community meeting at Medina High School.

Symonds said she has two sons who graduated from Medina schools. She said she hasn’t voted for school levies in the past, and has not yet decided whether to vote for a future one.

She called a 4.9-mill levy — the minimum school officials said was needed to maintain services and which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $150 a year — “a significant expense.”

More public meetings are planned for next week, including another for community members and one with members of the Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce.

Stepp said that if a levy is not passed, the board will need to cut $3.4 million from its budget. He asked participants to rank what they might be willing to cut.

The list included cutting the school day to five hours, reducing the number of buildings, switching to grade-level buildings and eliminating sports, technology, extracurricular activities, music programs, art programs, elective classes at both the middle and high schools, and reductions in gym, Advanced Placement classes and foreign languages.

“We don’t like any of them,” one woman in the audience said.

Others in attendance said they were willing to consider making sports self-funded instead of cutting extracurriculars.

Another said, “If everybody’s walking to school, we don’t need phys ed.”

Stepp said that in the past several years, the district has cut $9.5 million from its budget, and reduced staff by nearly 20 percent.

The district now faces a projected deficit of $3 million in fiscal year 2014, $5.6 million in 2016 and $18.2 million in 2017, he said. He said the budget shortfalls are the result of cuts in state funding, inflation and five failed levy attempts since 2008.

Another question asked was what participants expected from Medina Schools.

Popular ideas mentioned included maintaining the educational status quo, school security, smaller class sizes and bringing back busing. One parent said it cost a family member a job whose schedule conflicted with taking a child to school.

Students who live less than two miles from school do not get busing, and there is no transportation for high school students.

The district also has an online survey available this week on the issue at www.medinacityschooldistrict.org.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.