June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Black River approves 8.7-mill levy initiative for May

SULLIVAN TWP. — Voters in the Black River School District will be asked to approve an 8.7-mill levy this spring.

The school board voted 3-2 on Thursday to place the issue on the May 7 primary ballot.

The board made the decision after considering four proposals, ranging from 5.6 mills to 10 mills, which would bring in between $1 million and $1.8 million annually for five years:

• A 5.6-mill levy that would allow the district to operate as is for two years before facing a deficit.

• A 7.8-mill levy that would give the schools enough money to operate through 2016 without a shortfall. In addition, school officials said the district would be able to bring back some services.

• An 8.7-mill levy that would allow the district to reduce pay-to-play fees for school sports and to eliminate kindergarten fees.

• A 10-mill levy that would bring back all previous programs and would give the district enough money for some permanent improvements.

Board president Bruce Goff said he voted against placing the 8.7-mill levy on the ballot because it was too small.

“We’re all on U.S.S. Black River, and it’s taking in water right now,” he said. “I think we need to ask for nothing less than 9 mills. That would get us through five years.”

Also voting no was board member Jody Weidrick.

Black River has failed five times to pass a levy since 2010 and was placed on fiscal caution by the state in February 2011.

Goff said he understands that 9 mills could be too much for some voters.

The 8.7-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $274 annually.

The most recent levies — a 5.8-mill emergency levy for operating costs and a 1.8-mill levy for permanent improvements — failed by wide margins on Nov. 6.

Those levies would have cost $57 and $183 per year, respectively, for owners of homes with a $100,000 market value. They would have raised more than $1.3 million per year for five years.

The Black River district covers parts of Medina, Lorain and Ashland counties.

The board began discussing placing a levy on the May primary ballot last month, but it was put off a decision until the results of a survey of Black River homeowners were in.

Of 6,000 surveys sent out, board vice president Janet Eichel said only 892 were returned.

“That’s not great,” she said.

Eichel said that about a quarter of those responding were absolutely opposed to any levy. Another quarter said they would support a levy.

The remaining 50 percent were divided among the various proposals.

In November, Black River Superintendent Janice Wyckoff said the district could face staff reductions, higher-priced pay-to-play athletic programs and reduced busing if a levy isn’t passed soon.

If levies continued to be rejected, a worst-case scenario might mean eventually closing the high school, she warned.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.