TALLMADGE —The city school district intends to place a failed operating levy back on the ballot in May.
Voters in November rejected a five-year, 7.4-mill operating levy for the school district. On Thursday morning the Tallmadge Board of Education decided voters will see the same proposal, a property tax, on the ballot this spring. Superintendent Jeff Ferguson told the Tallmadge Express that board of education members will begin discussing the specifics of a spending reduction plan when they meet Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Tallmadge High, 140 N. Munroe Road.
"We weren’t successful in November of ’18," the superintendent notes, "so we will see no new money in ‘19. Even if we pass (an operating levy) in May, there’ll be no new money until 2020." Ferguson emphasizes more than 80 percent of the district’s budget is allocated to staffing.
The board is expected to take the first step in a two-step process of officially placing the levy on the ballot next week. A special meeting will be necessary at the end of the month so the board can meet a Feb. 6 filing deadline with the Summit County Board of Elections.
The proposed levy would generate a little more than $3.1 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $259 a year. If new money is not generated for the Tallmadge schools, the district will find itself $936,378 in the hole by fiscal year 2020, according to information provided by the five-year forecast presented in last May by Treasurer Jeff Hostetler. Hostetler notes the district’s last operating levy was approved by voters in 2009. That levy was passed as an emergency measure at 6.9 mills, and generates just less than $2.9 million. District officials have stretched that money as far as they can, the treasurer reports.
Years ago, Hostetler says, one of the local revenue streams for schools was the tangible personal property tax on business inventory and equipment. However, the state changed the law and phased out the personal tangible property tax which Hostetler describes as a hit to schools. While state officials promised to make up for the loss of personal tangible tax by replacing it with the commercial activity tax, Hostetler says that money goes into the state General Fund and hasn’t increased funding to Tallmadge schools.
Passage of Ohio House Bill 920 has greatly impacted Ohio schools as well, Hostetler says. The law that puts a cap on how much money can be generated by a property tax levy. When property valuation increases, the levy value is capped at the original revenue — preventing school districts from keeping pace with inflation. So whether the district proceeded with the bond issues for the building project or not, the district would still be in the same financial straits, Hostetler reports.
"The state took away the $2.5 million of tangible personal property tax that we were receiving," he says, adding, "Had we continued to receive those monies we would not be on the ballot." While the school district’s costs continue to go up, its options for generating and increasing revenue are limited, Hostetler says, describing it as his "biggest frustration" in his 35-year career.
Reporter Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, email@example.com or @EllinWalsh_RPC.