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Cost of failed school issues

By John Published: November 5, 2010
Nordonia Hills Elementary School principal Dr. Karen Muffley sees children on to the bus after school on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, in Northfield, Ohio. The districts levy was defeated forcing them to revert to state minimums for bussing beginning Nov. 30. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal)

By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer

Only three of a dozen area school districts trying to pass new property taxes for operations succeeded Tuesday, and none was in Summit County.

North Canton, Southeast (in Wayne County) and Streetsboro managed to raise taxes, but the others must now cut expenses in ways that will affect students and parents.

Statewide, only about a quarter of the 96 requests for new operating money passed, according to the Ohio School Boards Association. Typically, the success rate is closer to a third.

More districts were asking for new money than in previous elections as well, said OSBA spokesman Scott Ebright.

About 45 percent of all tax issues were for new operating money, compared with an average of 36 percent over all elections since 2003, according to OSBA data.

Tuesday's passage for all school issues new levies, renewals and bond issues was 47.5 percent, the lowest for a November election since 1993 when only 44.4 percent passed, according to Akron Beacon Journal records.

Many districts will have to take immediate action to balance their budgets.

Nordonia Hills in northern Summit County, which currently offers busing to everyone, will cut transportation to the state minimum beginning Nov. 30. That means the district will provide busing only for elementary and middle-school students who live outside a two-mile radius from their school. High school busing will be eliminated.

''Our K-4 buildings, our elementaries, really get hit the hardest,'' said Superintendent J. Wayne Blankenship.

''You could very easily have 200 to 300 kids be affected in each one of those elementary schools.''

Reduced busing will save close to $200,000 by the end of this year and almost $500,000 when combined with the savings from next year.

''That's money saved that doesn't directly affect the classroom,'' Blankenship said.

''But it seems like that's what everybody gets upset about.''

Nordonia Hills also faces potential staffing cuts toward the end of January at the end of the first semester, including the elimination of an art class in the high school and other select classes. Teachers in those classes may end up bumping less senior teachers when the classes are elimi

nated.

''That doesn't seem to upset people as much and that drives me crazy,'' Blankenship said.

Meanwhile, in southern Summit County, Green could cut as many as 75 staff positions, including up to 65 teachers.

Hudson parents face steep increases in pay-to-participate fees. High school students now pay a $100 flat fee to participate in all activities at the high school, including sports.

Sports fees to increase

Because Hudson's levy failed, high school students will now pay $400 a sport beginning with this year's winter sports. Middle-school students, who had been paying a flat $80 for activities, will have to pay $200 per sport beginning with winter sports. Families will not have to pay more than $1,200 for the year.

The district has also canceled all field trips.

High school busing and 10 non-teaching jobs will be eliminated beginning Jan. 3.

Next spring, Hudson will eliminate 42 teaching jobs.

''We'll still work hard and we'll still do everything we can to provide a quality education for the students that we serve,'' said Superintendent Steven Farnsworth. ''But it will make it much more difficult now. Our jobs will be much more difficult and obviously, the quality will have slipped because of the cuts and the lack of resources that we will experience.''

The cuts in Revere also will come in phases. Beginning in January, high school students will pay $250 per student per sport ($100 for middle-school students). The district will also eliminate all field trips, several student trips and events and all technology and bus purchases.

Another phase of cuts that will go into effect in August includes another hike in student participation fees ($450 per sport per student in high school), the elimination of at least two teachers per grade level, increased class size by an average of 25 percent, and decreased course offerings at the high school and middle school.

Special meeting today

Revere has called a special meeting for this morning to discuss placing the renewal of an expiring levy that raises almost $4.6 million a year on the February special election ballot.

That emergency levy expires at the end of next year. Revere and other districts warned voters about the cuts that would come if their levies failed.

Mogadore emphasized that the district had gone 13 years without passing a new tax for operations, but didn't warn voters about the consequences of defeat.

''Right now there are no specific cuts in mind,'' Mogadore Treasurer Chris Adams said.

The district also is saving $50,000 a year by sharing Adams with Springfield, which also saves $50,000.

That information also was in the campaign fliers, but voters still rejected the levy.

A new superintendent Christina Dinklocker, the former deputy superintendent in Parma takes over the Mogadore district for Terry Byers, who is retiring, in January.

District report cards

Nordonia Hills and Green received the state's highest rating on last year's report cards; Hudson and Revere both were ''Excellent'' districts, and Mogadore was rated ''Effective.''

''The biggest concern in our district, and I'm guessing it's pretty much the same way in Revere and it's probably Hudson,'' Blankenship said. ''People like the schools. They just don't want to pay any more tax.''

Even if the districts that failed to pass new money Tuesday succeed in 2011, they won't be able to collect on a new tax until 2012. Some districts probably will have to ask for a higher millage to make up for the lost year of collection.

''My biggest fear is that we've now created a culture where it's OK to say no,'' Blankenship said. ''The problem with that is, we can't just shut down, so we've got to come back. It's a never-ending circle.''


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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