NORDONIA HILLS — Security enhancements, maintenance and the maintenance and enhancement of educational programs would be the primary focus for the nearly $7 million in funds generated through Issue 2, should the Nordonia City School District’s levy pass this November.

The Nordonia Hills City School District’s 6.98-mill continuing operating levy on the Nov. 6 ballot would cost homeowners about $246 per year per $100,000 of their property’s value if approved. The district last passed an operating levy in 2011.

Superintendent Joe Clark said enhancing security would be a primary focus, following community feedback the district received at an open forum meeting in March.

"In July, the Board committed to utilizing a significant portion of funding raised by the passage of Issue 2 this November to enhance safety and security and provide more supports to those students with mental, emotional and behavioral health concerns," Clark said in a Sept. 24 email to parents. "These items were decided after much research and consultation with law enforcement, safety experts and mental health experts."

Clark also said the board of education has agreed to keep a school resource officer on board if the levy is approved, as city officials in Macedonia have said they may pull funding for the post if the city’s proposed 0.25 percent income tax increase is rejected. 

The position, created in 2016, is presently held by Macedonia police officer Glenn Nicholl. It costs the city around $100,000 per year.

According to information provided by the district, security improvements would include:

? Fortified main entries for all the schools, with teller-style check-in booths at each building. The booths would include bulletproof glass and a drawer for item drop off. The projected cost, a one-time expense, is estimated at $325,000, and would also include an entry door alert system, which would notify the main office if an unmonitored entry door is opened;

? Full-time staffing for the check-in booths at each building, which would be $325,000 annually;

? Implementing a schedule of replacing old security cameras with new, and adding cameras at each building to vulnerable areas. In addition, the district would update the software, which would provide real-time visibility to the local safety forces. This would be a $225,000 one-time expense;

? Spending $300,000 annually on counseling services. This would include increasing clinical counseling services from 60 to 120 hours per week for students with mental health issues, increasing services for students with the most significant issues from 16 to 40 hours were week, and adding a school counselor, which would mean the district would have two full-time counselors at Lee Eaton and the Middle School;

The total one-time capital expenses would be $650,000, and the annual costs would be $625,000, according to the legislation approved.

Maintenance needs

Proceeds from the levy would also go to cover physical improvements, including roofs and boilers nearing the end of their lifespan since the district renovated its buildings in 2001, according to business director Matt Gaugler. School officials say the district is one of only two in the county’s 17 districts without a permanent improvement levy to cover such expenses.

According to information provided by Treasurer Karen Obratil in the district’s recently released five-year forecast, which districts are required to prepare in the fall and in the spring, the Nordonia Hills City Schools will face a deficit of just under $2.6 million by the end of fiscal year 2021 without either budget cuts or new revenue.

"There are two things schools can do when their funding does not keep up with expenses: raise more money or slash programs that are not mandated, things like transportation, art, music, gifted programming," Clark said. "If we are unable to raise additional funds by passing a levy, the next step is to look at what we can cut to keep our heads above water."

So far, the feedback Clark said he has received from the community has been positive.

"I have heard the community say they understand the need and are ready to support us," Clark said. "I have heard the community say they realize this needs to pass the first time so we do not have to go through the madness we did in 2011 with slashing programs and almost being taken over by the state. The Nordonia Schools are one of the highest performing in the county with one of the lowest tax rates. I am hopeful people will recognize that we have been good stewards of their tax money and will trust us to keep moving forward."

Educational programs

In addition to providing more supports to those students with mental, emotional and behavioral health concerns as part of the district’s plan to enhance security, student achievement remains a key goal, said Clark.

"School districts are in the service industry. We do not create a product; we provide services to school-aged children who live in our community," Clark said. "These services include programming in academics, athletics and the arts, as well as a host of other mandated services including counseling, nursing, health screenings, drug intervention, career preparation, and so much more."

Accomplishing those goals requires people. Clark said that Nordonia Hills pays just under 80 percent of its budget to cover salaries and benefits, while most districts pay between 80 to 85 percent of their budgets.

"We do not have a current list of stuff we’re immediately going to add. It’s just as time goes by, if we need something we’ll have the funding to do it," Clark said. "But basically, it’s what it is — an operating levy pays for salaries, benefits, insurance."

He said voters should consider what the district has achieved since the last operating levy was approved. 

"You will see the community has realized a wonderful return on its investment," Clark said. "The passage of Issue 2 will allow the district to maintain the programs and personnel that produced these achievements. Without proper funding, the district would be forced to eliminate programs and personnel."

He invites those with questions to contact him at 330-908-6202 or joe.clark@nordoniaschools.org.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC