CUYAHOGA FALLS — Voters in the Woodridge Local School District will be asked to renew a levy this fall.

That was one of the topics that came out of the Board of Education’s review and approval of the district’s five-year forecast May 26. The district has a 2.03-mill operating levy on the books that must be renewed this year to ensure the uninterrupted collection of $1 million annually. 

The Board of Education needs to take two official actions to put the levy renewal request on the November ballot. The Board of Education took that first step at its meeting on June 16, by unanimously voting to have the school treasurer contact the Summit County Fiscal Office to certify the total current tax valuation of the school district and to calculate and certify the levy.

The Fiscal Office "will then return to the district the estimated millage to raise the renewed annual amount," said Treasurer Tom Morehouse.

"This will also tell us what the cost will be to a property owner,"  We can not give an amount until the county office comes back with the information. Currently, this is a 2.03 mill levy."

This was the district’s smallest levy, Morehouse said during the June 16 meeting.

The second step would be for the school board to request the Summit County Board of elections place the levy on the November ballot. This is scheduled to appear on the school board’s July 21 meeting, Morehouse said. The deadline to place something on the November ballot is Aug. 5.

Another levy will likely be up for renewal soon: A five-year, 8.16-mill levy which generates $4 million per year was passed in November 2018. That tax issue, which now collects at 7.94 mills, would need to be renewed by the end of 2023 to guarantee uninterrupted collection of funds.  

If both levies are renewed on time, the district would maintain a positive cash balance throughout the life of the five-year forecast.

According to the forecast, with renewals of the two levies, the district’s total cash on hand would be $6.43 million at the end of Fiscal Year 2021 (or 2020-21 school year). Year-end balances would then be nearly $5.69 million (FY2022), almost $3.7 million (FY2023) and $317,534 (FY2024).

If neither levy is renewed, Morehouse projects the district would need to make up about $5.3 million in fiscal year 2024. From Fiscal Year 2021 through Fiscal Year 2023, the district is projected to have a positive cash balance even if neither levy is approved: Year-end balances would be $5.9 million (Fiscal Year 2021), about $4.15 million (FY 2022) and $1.13 million (FY 2023).

The district is expected to finish Fiscal Year 2020 with revenues of about $28.96 million, expenditures of approximately $26.98 million and a cash balance of about $6.9 million.

Morehouse added that a 2.02-mill debt service levy has expired and will no longer be paid by district constituents. 

"We are not collecting on this levy any longer," Morehouse said. "This was the bond levy used to build the Woodridge Middle School that passed back in 1994. Property owners stopped paying this tax starting in 2020."

A look at revenues

As part of the forecast, Morehouse said he is projecting a 5% delinquency on property tax collection due to COVID-19 for the 2021 Fiscal Year.

Due to COVID-19, Morehouse said the district’s state funding was reduced by $442,119 in the current fiscal year (2020), a 26.25% drop in per-pupil funding. Morehouse said the average cut in state funding across K-12 public education was 3.72%. He added the district is anticipating per pupil funding in Fiscal Year 2021 to be reduced "by both the current 26.25% and also an additional 10%."

Morehouse said he is estimating the state will restore 50 percent of its Fiscal Year 2021 cuts in Fiscal Year 2022.

"We are estimating to be restored to our pre-reduction [Fiscal Year 2020] levels in [Fiscal Year 2024]," wrote Morehouse in his five-year forecast report.

A look at expenses

The district has negotiated three-year agreements with both the Woodridge Education Association (WEA) and OAPSE that started in Fiscal Year 2020 and run through Fiscal Year 2022. Both unions’ employees received a 3% pay increase in Fiscal Year 2020. WEA workers will also receive a 3% raise in FY2021, while OAPSE members will receive a 2% compensation increase. WEA employees will not receive a raise in FY2022, but OAPSE workers will get a 1% pay increase in that year. Though nothing has been officially set up for FY2023 and FY2024, Morehouse said he has 2% pay hikes built into the forecast for each of those years.

The district switched to the Summit Regional Health Care Consortium in FY2020 and Morehouse said health insurance rates dropped by 12% compared to their level in FY2019. He added WEA and OAPSE both made concessions which reduced their future rates by 1% and 1.5%, respectively. The district will see a 4.6% increase in medical benefit expenses in FY2021 and Morehouse said he is projecting an 8% increase each year from FY2022 through FY2024.

Morehouse also noted the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty on how the reopening of schools will occur in August.

"It is our hope that we will be able to open our doors and bring kids back into the actual classroom," wrote Morehouse. "However, the district is generating ideas of different types of virtual and online learning. The financial result of this is unknown at this time."

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.