by Ellin Walsh

Reporter

Cuyahoga Falls -- The City School District has cleared the first hurdle toward placing a levy on the May ballot.

On Wednesday evening, the Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution declaring it necessary to renew a 4.75-mill levy. Through that resolution, the district asks the county fiscal officer to certify the tax valuation of the school district and the amount of revenue which would be generated by the proposed levy during a five-year term.

Superintendent Dr. Edwin S. Holland noted a 4.75-mill levy expired in December 2006, although collection of levy money continues through 2007. It generates approximately $3.3 million annually, according to the superintendent. If the levy is not renewed during 2007, Holland said the district would be $3.3 million in the hole before the end of the 2007-08 school year.

The levy costs the owner of a home valued at $100,000 $122.11 a year. If it were renewed, collection would begin in January 2008.

As the next step, the district must approve a resolution accepting the data supplied by the county fiscal officer and asking the Summit County Board of Elections to place the levy on the May 8 ballot.

The Board of Education must meet a Feb. 22 deadline for the levy to appear on the May ballot. Since the School Board's next regular business meeting will be Feb. 21, Holland asked Board members to act on the first step Wednesday evening. They still need to take the second step at the Feb. 21 meeting.

If the levy would fail in May, Holland said, the district would have to place the issue back on the ballot in August or November.

Board member Therese Dunphy said officials from the state auditor's office emphasized the importance of the levy renewal when they addressed the Board earlier this month.

"It's the difference between stabilizing our funds and being in a position where we can carry over funds for the next couple of years to extend the time between asking for an increase [via a levy]," Dunphy said.

Board member Kellie Patterson said she had been under the impression that the district would ask voters to renew the 4.75-mill levy on the November ballot. She questioned why the timetable was being accelerated. Patterson also asserted the district continues to allow unnecessary spending, permits biased busing practices and unbalanced class sizes.

Holland said the district has only three opportunities to pass the levy in this calendar year and since an election is already scheduled in May, the superintendent said he believed the district should try to pass the levy as soon as possible.

"I'm wondering how I can ask the taxpayers, in the position where I'm in, where we feel we're getting the short end of the stick, to continue funding when they see no movement -- especially on busing, it's the biggest white elephant we have," Patterson said.

Board member Barbara Gunter noted the Board has commissioned a community survey, but can't seem to agree on the purpose of the undertaking.

"Because this Board has not been able to decide on what issues it would like to survey this community on," Gunter said, "I can think of no better way to gauge the community's feeling on how the Board is acting than by putting this levy on the ballot.

"Place the levy on the ballot and we're giving the people the opportunity to let their voices be heard ... They can tell us if they think we've been good stewards of their money."

E-mail: ewalsh@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3108