June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

State could end oversight of Cloverleaf Local with levy passage

WESTFIELD TWP. — Cloverleaf school officials hope a state fiscal oversight commission soon may consider relinquishing control of the district’s finances after voters Tuesday approved a new tax for the first time in eight years.

Cloverleaf officials met Wednesday with the state oversight committee that has handled the district’s money since January 2012.

Cloverleaf Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said the oversight committee was pleased by the passage of the combined 0.75 earned income tax and 3.5-mill levy.

“The process now is they will work through the Ohio Auditor’s Office to conduct an independent five-year forecast,” he said. “By the end of May, they hope to set a timeline for us to exit fiscal emergency.”

The district has cut more than $7 million from its budget over the past five years and reduced services and staff.

The district faced a $5.8 million deficit by 2017 without new money, and the commission was demanding yet another $1 million in cuts if the Tuesday’s funding request failed.

The proposed cuts, which officials have called “draconian,” would have included shortened school days, closing school libraries and the elimination of art, music and physical education from the K-6 curriculum.

But Kubilus said the $1.6 million per year collected from the levy and the additional revenue from the income tax will provide enough funding to convince the commission that Cloverleaf can remain financially sound.

Instead of cuts, the district will restore some services at the start of next school year. Kubilus said they will make good on levy-campaign promises of restoring high school busing; half-day, every-day kindergarten; and opening the schools for public use after hours.

Kubilus said they’ll try to restore more services on a yearly basis, depending on the budget.

“The board was very deliberate with regard to potential bring-backs and taking a conserve approach,” he said. “We will assess our revenue on a yearly basis and make those decisions that way.”

Kubilus said officials want to provide more services for students, but they intend to keep the purse strings tight going forward.

“We are going to remain a fiscally responsible school district,” he said. “We will continually asses our business practices and continue to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.”

The new levy and income tax go into effect Jan. 1 and will run for 10 years.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @danpomp32.