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Woodridge’s money woes worsened by levy defeat

11/24/2011 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

PENINSULA — The Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education discussed its financial woes following the defeat Nov. 8 of Issue No. 21, a 5.88-mill, 10-year emergency levy for operating expenses.

At a special Board of Education meeting Nov. 16, Woodridge Superintendent Walter Davis presented statistics showing although the election result was close — the levy was defeated by only 249 votes — it won in only six of 19 precincts at the polls and only four of 19 among early voters.

The levy passed in Akron areas that include Merriman Valley north of Portage Trail, the Waterford Apartments and part of Timber Top, along with part of Keyser Park and Woodhaven condos in Cuyahoga Falls. It failed by a wide margin in Boston Heights, Peninsula and Akron precincts that include condos along Smith Road.

Board President Cheryl Hoover cited “the worst economy we’ve had in a long time” as a contributing factor to the levy’s defeat.

Davis added the 10-year life of the levy put some voters off.

The levy would have raised $2.85 million per year, so the district is now $2.85 million short for 2012, when the levy money would have been first collected. And since money from any levy that may be passed in 2012 would not be collected until January 2013, the district will end up in the red by 2015-16, said Treasurer Deanna Levenger.

“We are in dire need of additional revenue — we must pass something in 2012,” Davis said, and now that $2.85 million per year will no longer be enough.

In addition to raising new money from a levy, Woodridge will need to make another $300,000 in cuts each year to balance the budget, on top of the $1.4 million in staffing and other cuts that were made this year.

The $300,000 reduction each year can be cumulative, such as instituting a pay-to-participate policy that would bring in revenue each year, Levenger said.

Davis said since the bulk of the district’s budget is in personnel expenses, “that’s where we need to focus the cuts.” These cuts will be more painful than the previous ones, he said  “Now we’re at the point of talking about sacred cows,” he said.

Along with $300,000 in additional cuts, board members seemed in agreement about putting a levy to raise $3 million annually on the March 6 Primary Election ballot. This levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 house only around $9.50 more per year than Issue No. 21 would have, Levenger said.

When board member Jeff McHugh asked whether the levy vote could be put off until June, Levenger answered the June Primary Election date might go away, depending on when the Ohio General Assembly finishes drawing new district boundaries for the 2012 elections.

Davis recommended the March 6 ballot, as soon as possible, because “the [financial] news just gets worse the more time goes by.”

That financial news includes the report that Gov. John Kasich will announce a new education funding formula next year, and “we have no idea what that will be,” said Davis.

Putting a school levy on the ballot requires the board to pass two separate resolutions. Levenger said she would consult the district’s legal counsel to get the first resolution in proper legal form for the board to vote on at its Nov. 22 regular meeting. Assuming it passes, a special meeting will be set, after the Summit County Fiscal Office determines what the exact millage would be, to vote on the second resolution before the Dec. 7 Summit County Board of Elections deadline to put an issue on the March ballot.

The board’s next meeting is set for Dec. 20 at 6 p.m., at the Woodridge High School Library, 4440 Quick Road.

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