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Copley-Fairlawn, six other districts turn to voters for more money

By John Published: May 21, 2010

John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer

Copley-Fairlawn schools will try to pass a new property tax in the Aug. 3 special election that would increase total school-related taxes by about 23 percent.

The district was among seven in the area that made Thursday's filing deadline for the special election.

Six of those districts — Norton, Rootstown, Buckeye, Highland, Wooster and Southeast (Wayne County) failed to pass issues in the May primary.

Southeast in Portage County also filed for the August election, even though its levy narrowly passed in May. The primary election won't be certified until Tuesday. If the elections board confirms the victory, then Southeast will withdraw from the August ballot.

The state considers the Copley-Fairlawn district a ''very high income/very low poverty'' district, which means that local taxpayers are on the hook for almost all of the district's annual budget of about $30 million.

The state contributes only about $1.1 million a year after transfers for charter school and other deductions.

Copley-Fairlawn educates about 3,312 students and received the state's highest ranking on last year's report card — excellent with distinction, the equivalent of an A plus.

Voters last approved a new tax for day-to-day operations in 2002: a 5.9-mill levy that raises $4.1 million a year.

Although the community has grown, enrollment has increased and expenses have gone up since 2002, the levy still raises just $4.1 million a year.

Despite cuts in staff and some programming over the last five years, the district still faces a nearly $3 million deficit in the 2011-12 school year, which is why it is seeking new money in August.

The 6.9-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home, who already pays about $913 a year in school-related taxes, an additional $211 a year.

''The money that will be raised with this levy will maintain current programming,'' assistant superintendent Brian Poe said. ''This is not for new programming. It's to maintain our excellent status.''

Poe will replace superintendent Roger Saurer, who makes $136,700 and retires this summer. Poe will make $126,000 a year when he takes over Aug. 1.

Administrators also have taken a wage freeze for the coming school year.

The district is negotiating a new contract with the teachers union and is seeking a one-year freeze on both base pay and steps for years of service and advanced degrees.

Teachers also have been asked for medical concessions, including doubling the premium they pay for insurance from about 5 percent to 10 percent, according to school officials.

Also in Summit County, Norton schools will again try to pass a 2-mill permanent improvements levy and a 4.6-mill bond issue to build a high school and athletic complex.

The Highland school district in Medina County narrowly lost the May primary after paper absentee ballots, which were counted last, broke overwhelmingly against passage.

The district will try again to pass a 5.9-mill operating levy that would raise about $3.8 million a year for five years, or about 15 percent of the district's operating budget.

The emergency levy, which would raised the same amount each year, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $181 more annually.

Voters who live in the Orrville school district will be asked to approve a 0.95-mill levy for the Orrville Public Library that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $29 a year.

Other school districts on the ballot include:

-- Buckeye (Medina County), a 6.8-mill additional, five-year emergency operating levy that would raise about $2.6 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $208 annually.

-- Rootstown (Portage County), a 5.96-mill, additional five-year emergency operating levy that would raise about $1 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $183 a year.

-- Southeast (Wayne County), a 7-mill additional, five-year emergency operating levy that would raise about $1.8 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $214 annually.

-- Wooster (Wayne County), a 6.5-mill additional continuing operating levy that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $199 a year.



John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.

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