CUYAHOGA FALLS — The Woodridge School Board expects to vote Tuesday, Jan. 16 on legislation that would complete the first of two steps of placing a 5-year, $4 million emergency levy on the May 8 ballot.
A previous levy effort, a 5-year, 8.71 mill issue, would have raised the same amount but failed in this past November general election by 639 votes.
At the Board’s work session Tuesday, Jan. 9, Superintendent Walter Davis urged the school board to ask voters for the same amount again, as the district is going to need the money sooner or later.
"Going for the $4 million will help with our five-year forecast," Davis said. "If we go for less, we may need a levy sooner than we’d like."
According to the five-year forecast filed in October 2017, the district is expected to have a negative cash balance of $687,983 in fiscal year 2019, and a negative cash balance of nearly $5.6 million by fiscal year 2020.
No formal vote on the matter took place, but members said they feel trying again for a $4 million emergency levy is necessary.
"You can cut and chop and parse things, but to hear that your district is considered in financial distress by the state, that’s what hurts," said Jan Flasco, board member.
Board member Marilyn Hansen said that the levies passed years ago "are still collecting at the same amount," with no accounting for rising costs.
Scott Karlo, the chair of the levy committee, said he talked with several voters who had voted no, who told him that they "wanted to see what the district would do to fix the problem on its own." He suggested the district’s community outreach efforts should emphasize the difference between what the district is required to provide by law and what the district offers to enhance education "so people can see in simple black and white the devastation of having to cut $4 million will do."
Davis said he agreed, adding that parents chose Woodridge for its programs and extracurricular options.
"Cut the extracurriculars and parents will take their kids elsewhere," Davis said.
School Treasurer Tom Morehouse said one thing that could help the district this time around would be to stress that the 3.32-mill bond issue passed in 1993 to pay for construction of the middle school "will come off in tax year 2019." This will save taxpayers about $102 per $100,000 value on their property each year, Morehouse said.
Morehouse said the deadline to get an issue on the May 8 primary ballot is Feb. 7.
The school board first must to approve legislation that will ask the Summit County Fiscal Office to certify the current assessed value of the district, and then calculate the millage needed to raise the $4 million.
After that number is obtained, the school board must pass a second piece of legislation stating the school board wishes to proceed with the election, and "is requesting the Summit County Board of Elections to make arrangements to conduct the election."