December 22, 2014

Medina
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Ax to fall with Cloverleaf Schools levy failure

Without passage of a levy in May, the Cloverleaf school district will be forced to make unspecified “draconian” cuts. The five-member state commission overseeing Cloverleaf’s finances met in a special session Thursday to discuss the most recent levy failure on Nov. 5.

“The district can get through this year. Next year they’re going to run a deficit again,” said Paul Marshall, chairman of the commission.

Under Ohio law, school districts must operate with a balanced budget. Cloverleaf has been in fiscal emergency for 1½ years, requiring the commission to approve all the district’s financial decisions and allowing it to borrow money from the state to operate.

Marshall said the district’s current recovery plan assumed passage of a levy this month. Instead, voters rejected a 10-year, 8.3-mill levy.

“If a levy is not approved, and fairly quickly, we’re going to have to make some other decisions,” Marshall said.

The district has projected a $5.8 million deficit by 2017 if a new levy is not approved. The Nov. 5 levy would have brought in $3.7 million a year in operating funds for Cloverleaf.

As in previous meetings, Marshall praised the district for cutting nearly $7 million from its budget since 2009. In 2011, the district was spending $28 million. This year, it spent less than $26 million, he said.

He said the budget always could be cut further, but neither the commission members nor school board would like the results.

“We’re going to have to work our way down to simply meeting state minimum standards,” he said, which would likely mean further cuts to staff and extracurricular activities.

A performance audit released in May recommended only $330,700 in potential cost-savings, mostly in negotiated agreements, and not enough to offset the district’s projected deficits, according to the recovery plan.

Cloverleaf Superintendent Daryl Kubilus called the recommendations “unrealistic,” saying the unions already have agreed to salary freezes and increases in health premiums.

Kubilus said he would not recommend further reductions, and only would research minimum standards if the commission ordered him to do it.
“I was hired to build this district. I wasn’t hired to dissect it,” he said.

Rebecca Sovchik, president of the Cloverleaf Education Association, thanked Kubilus for recognizing the concessions made by the teachers union, saying the membership has been reduced from 219 to 158 teachers.

“We work hard every day,” she said. “We love our kids, we love our jobs, we love this district and we are committed to this district,” she said.

The board has not yet decided a millage amount for a May levy. The deadline is Feb. 5 to file with the Medina County Board of Elections.

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