Our schools need money again – it’s become a fact of life.

Nordonia Hills City Schools is asking voters to approve Issue 3, a 6.98-mill operating levy on the May 7 ballot. Approval would bring the district an added $7 million per year and avoid drastic cuts that would affect both the quality of education, as well as the character of the community. If approved, it would cost homeowners about $20 per month per $100,000 of their home’s value.

A similar measure last November failed by less than 700 votes.

As a result, the schools are poised to eliminate 38 teaching and support staff positions, reduce busing to state minimum, along with other cuts that will impact students in sports and families with children in kindergarten. These measures would save the district about $1.6 million per year.

Also, about 500 staff have agreed to a one-year wage freeze, when contract negotiations with the two employee organizations would have likely resulted in salary increase. These agreements will save an estimated $250,000 next year.

Officials say some of the staff cuts and busing, but not the salary freeze, would be revisited if the levy is approved.

If the levy is not approved, the district will have no choice but to follow through with those cuts, and begin considering even more drastic measures to balance its budget in upcoming years.

That’s the nature of school funding in Ohio: Voters approve operating levies that provide a fixed amount of money, while costs increase over time. School districts operate in the black for a few years, banking the excess revenue over expenditures, until rising costs means accumulated reserves dwindle. Without fail, the reserve will eventually be exhausted unless revenue is increased, or cuts are made.

That’s the situation the district was in the last time voters approved an operating levy – in 2011.

If Issue 3 is not approved, the district will have no choice but to return to the ballot in November, while at the same time considering even more drastic cuts.

Without added funding, the district could eventually reach the point where teachers of elective courses would be laid off, the school day shortened, and sports and extra-curricular activities eliminated. In the long run, that’s the only way to cut enough positions and reduce costs enough to make ends meet.

Those were the topics school officials were discussing in 2011. Had that levy not been approved, the biggest losers would not have been dozens of staffers forced to find other jobs, it would have been the hundreds of children stuck in a community unwilling to afford them the same opportunities as their neighbors.

The reality of school funding will not change. The question is, how long will Nordonia Hills voters take to step up and make a difference?

On May 7, voters can choose to support their community’s children with a vote for Issue 3. In the long run, there is no other alternative.

— The News Leader