MOGADORE: Parents got a taste of what it would be like if a 5.9-mill levy fails in May and the district follows through with a promise to cut busing, among other reductions.
About 170 students, those who routinely ride a bus but live close enough to a school in a village not much larger than 2 square miles, would be forced to walk should busing be cut to the state minimum. The 24 students who live beyond the 2-mile walking distance would not lose busing, nor would special education, vocational or preschool pupils.
Other cost-saving or revenue-generating measures the levy’s failure would trigger include a $100 pay-to-play fee (capped at $250 per family) in a place where most students play sports and football is cherished, closing school gymnasiums and fields to the public during the summer to avoid maintenance costs, eliminating free athletic event passes for school employees and senior citizens, and discontinuing the print version of a school newsletter.
“The campaign is designed so that each part of the community shoulders a piece of this,” said Superintendent Christina Dinklocker, who greeted parents in a bright yellow vest Monday morning.
To prepare for the surge in drivers, and to raise awareness for the upcoming levy, the school is holding a “rehearsal” this week, during which all parents must find a way to get their children to school.
Some parents understood the need to practice safety. Many were upset.
“It friggin’ sucks,” said David Adkins, a single father with two girls at O.H. Somers Elementary.
Adkins and other residents stood near Lions Park on Tuesday morning as they dropped off their children there, about 100 yards from the school, and watched them walk up a hill to the school’s side entrance.
By the time Adkins dropped off his daughters at 8:15 a.m., he already was more than an hour late for work. In the afternoon, he’ll miss even more work when he picks them up.
“We’re going to do a dry run this week,” Adkins said sarcastically. “Well the dry run cost me $300.”
“I feel bad for the ones that have tight work hours,” said April Kroah, who walked with her husband, Brian, after dropping off their son and daughter Tuesday morning.
The Kroahs know that even the short walk up the park’s hill could be dangerous, especially when the weather isn’t so nice. They’ve also heard concerns about children walking more than a mile to get to school, avoiding traffic and strangers.
April Kroah said most folks are “very upset,” but she and her husband advocate for the levy, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $180 in additional taxes per year. “If us local folks get together, we could fix this,” she said.
Unlike the Kroahs, most parents who typically make the daily commute with their kids don’t live in Mogadore. They account for the roughly 1-in-3 students who have forfeited school transportation by open-enrolling from a nearby district.
If Mogadore’s levy fails, open enrollment might be the only alternative to raise funding, officials said. The state has cut income tax revenue and has promised to phase out the collection of taxes on business equipment, which Mogadore heavily relies on. And open enrollment brings in more state dollars than Ohio gives Mogadore to educate its own students.
“Open enrollment for us is a lifeline,” Treasurer Chris Adams said.
As is the case in Coventry, each open-enrolled student in Mogadore raises more state funding than Ohio gives the local district to teach a local student but not enough to fully fund their education.
“A lot of people in town don’t like it, but it keeps the doors open,” Adams said of open enrollment, adding that the district will continue to fill empty seats and raise class sizes to offset other revenue reductions. “It’s not ideal. It’s not what we want. But what’s the alternative?”
Adams said the budget has operated at a deficit for the past three years.
He continues to trim, but stressed that additional revenue is needed.
“What we continue to do is when teachers retire, we don’t replace them,” said Adams, who has a goal of limiting deficit spending to $300,000 this year.
There are two ways to do that: raise taxes or implement cuts that would lay off two bus drivers, reduce transportation costs by a third and force the majority of students to walk or find a ride.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.