The May 7 levy was at the heart of the Barberton school board meeting Wednesday night as board members debated what to do if the district’s five-year, 8.45-mill levy does not pass.
If passed by voters, the levy will generate $3 million a year for the school district.
With the loss of federal, state and local revenue during the past few years, Ryan Pendleton, district treasurer/chief financial officer, explained that they need to stay ahead of the curve and continue to make reductions.
The first step toward that means planning options the board can consider between now and April when members would have to make cuts.
“I’d love to just be positive that it’ll pass and we won’t have those issues but we need to be prepared,” Board President Joe Stefan said.
Stefan quoted some at risk positions brought up in previous discussions if the levy fails such as physical education, art, music, middle school positions, elementary school gifted program positions and middle school Spanish positions.
Board member Maggie Masson thinks they can do better, expressing frustration toward cutting the arts.
“Every genius, every inventor, everybody who’s accomplished something in the world had art of some sort,” she said. “They had the cello, the violin, ceramics and it’s proven. I am challenging us to take a different look. I don’t think we’ve done a great job of being creative on our cuts.”
Masson also stressed concern with cutting from the elementary schools, claiming the board is “always punishing elementary students and teachers” with class sizes far beyond the middle and high schools. She challenged everyone to take another looks at class sizes and positions before making any decision.
Board member Dennis Liddle suggested using the process that’s been in place for decades.
“We analyze the budget, we see where our short fall is, we look at what things we’re doing that aren’t required, we look at previous cuts and then we start from there and work our way back,” he said. “We haven’t done that yet.”
Barberton is projected to receive a $1.5 million increase in state funding beginning in fiscal year 2014 and will see no state funding cuts in fiscal year 2013 beginning this July, according to early projections behind Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula.
School districts must now wait for lawmakers in Columbus to review and revise Gov. Kasich’s new school funding formula.
Stefan said one of the biggest challenges will be the information coming out of Columbus. Even though Barberton could see about $20 million in 2014, anything could change before it’s finalized.
“I’ll be very blunt and honest — I do not trust anything coming out of Columbus at this point and time,” Stefan said. “Generally a lot of times it becomes a shell game where they give on one side and take away on the other.”
For now, the district has several committees working to register voters and promote the levy, board member Megann Eberhart said.
A communications team is gathering information from focus groups and answering any questions levy and non-levy voters may have. A fundraising committee is raising money for signs, gathering endorsements and talking to community leaders and City Council members.
The board will have a March 13 work session where members will continue discussion based on suggestions from Wednesday night.
“I know the community has asked that question, ‘What’s going to happen if the levy doesn’t pass?'" Stefan said. “I think we owe it to the community to be able to answer that as well to our staff and everybody else who is out there.”