After being the only two districts of eight in Summit County to see failed levies last November, Woodridge and Norton school districts are back on the May 8 ballot and looking to make major cuts if the levies don’t pass this time around.

The Woodridge district, which has an enrollment of about 2,000 students, is asking for an additional five-year, 8.19-mill levy for current operating expenses. The levy would generate about $4 million annually for the district’s $30 million budget, and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $286.66 per year.

“If that weren’t to pass, we would be looking at massive reductions,” Superintendent Walter Davis said.

The district voted to make $1.2 million in cuts on Tuesday, including five teaching positions and an additional six personnel positions. The cuts will be effective next school year.

The board also took other budget reduction measures, including rolling over contracts that would have been negotiated this spring with its two unions for another year, and having nearly all staff take base salary freezes, including Davis.

Davis said the levy would not restore those cuts — it would simply give the district what it needs to balance its budget for the five-year forecast.

If it doesn’t pass this time around, voters would see it again in November. If it doesn’t pass then, Davis said the district would have to make another $5.6 million in cuts, paring back to state minimum programming and facing fiscal emergency.

In Norton, the district is asking for a new continuing levy for 3.5 mills that would generate nearly $1.1 million annually for operational expenses. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $123 per year.

Norton has faced cuts amounting to about $300,000 this year, including central office and service-oriented employees. Norton Superintendent Dana Addis said more cuts are possible if the levy doesn’t pass, including busing reductions, programming changes and pay-to-play policies.

“If this doesn’t pass, then everything goes onto the table,” Addis said. “Those are things that we don’t want to touch, but we’re in the red for fiscal year ’19 and we have to find a way to get above that.”

Both districts face barriers because of past levies that voters are still paying for. Voters in Wood­ridge passed a bond issue in 2015 that paid for a new middle school, while Norton voters passed a bond issue in 2013 that paid for a new high school and stadium.

Davis added that the bond for the middle school will be paid off in 2019 and will come off of property taxes, saving the owner of a $100,000 home about $68.29 a year.

Both superintendents stressed that money from bond issues and money from operational levies cannot mix.

They also stressed that because of the school funding model, districts have to come back to the ballot with a levy every five to seven years to avoid operating at a deficit.

“We’ve reached a point where we really need to work with [the community] ... on this levy so we can leave them alone for a little bit,” Addis said. “That’s one of our goals.”

Two renewal levies

Two Summit County districts also have renewals on the ballot.

Twinsburg is asking for a five-year renewal of a tax for 6.9 mills to pay for current expenses. It currently costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $156 per year, District Treasurer Martin Aho said.

The levy first passed in 1993 and has been renewed every five years since. It generates about $4.9 million annually for the district.

Highland, which falls mostly in Medina County but includes a portion of western Summit, is asking for a 10-year renewal of a 7.9-mill levy for current expenses.

The levy first passed in 1998 and was renewed in 2007. It generates about $4.15 million annually, which is about 13 percent of the district’s budget, Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said. It currently costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $155 a year.

“We’ve relied on this the last 20 years to keep our district operating,” Aukerman said. “We would not be able to run our schools without it.”

Neither renewal levy would result in tax increases for voters if passed.

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.