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Woodridge makes case for fourth levy try

10/18/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

PENINSULA — For the fourth time in a year, voters in the communities served by the Woodridge Local School District will be asked to support a request for additional funds for the district.

On the Nov. 6 General Election ballot will be Issue No. 71, a request for an additional 6.83 mills for five years.

This time, the stakes are even higher, said Superintendent Walter Davis.

“If we don’t pass in November but do pass it in calendar year 2013, we don’t collect until 2014,” Davis said. “So the board is going to be faced with a huge dilemma, even if we do pass it in 2013, because the collection of funds would be delayed for a year.”

Should the district successfully pass the levy next month, planned cuts, such as reducing busing to state minimum requirements and eliminating all-day kindergarten, would not have to happen, Davis said.

The district, which serves students living in Peninsula, Boston Township, Cuyahoga Falls and West Akron, began its quest for additional funds a year ago with a 5.88-mill levy in the 2011 General Election. That attempt was defeated by 52 percent of voters.

The district responded by going back to voters in the March Primary Election with a request for a 6.83-mill levy for five years, but it lost with 52 percent of voters against it. The same levy request was before voters in the August Special Election, and that time 51 percent of voters said no to the levy.

It’s that same request that is before voters this election, Davis said. The levy would cost $209 a year for every $100,000 in appraised property value and bring the district $3 million.

Davis said unlike the previous levy attempts, this time the district’s Board of Education has voted on particular items that would be cut for the 2013-14 school year if the levy doesn’t pass in an attempt to shave more than $1.8 million off the budget. They include: all-day, everyday kindergarten (only a half day is required by the state, said Davis), which would result in the cutting of three teachers; additional teacher cuts to include five from the high school, three from the middle school and four from the elementary level; cutting one of two bus mechanics, two health aides, one-and-a-half guidance counseling positions, one of two industrial technology teachers, one of two in-school restriction monitors and three of four library tutors.

Also proposed was the cutting of three custodial aides, which would mean that the primary and intermediate schools would be unavailable after 6 p.m., thereby eliminating evening use of the buildings for community activities and sports.

“This time, voters will know what they are voting for, quite honestly,” Davis said.

The superintendent added that district staff looked into election results and found that a lot of Woodridge parents did not vote in the previous elections. This time, there’s been an effort to get in touch with those families and inform them of the issues, Davis said.

He added the campaign is titled “Preserving the Excellence” in reference to the district’s achievement on the annual state report cards. Though this year’s results have yet to be publicly announced, Davis said based on data that has been released, he believes Woodridge will receive an Excellent With Distinction ranking. In the past five years, the district has either earned that ranking or Excellent, he said.

Davis said if the currently proposed cuts have to take place, it would mean the district would have had to cut about 20 percent of its budget and staff in the past few years. Meanwhile, enrollment is increasing, with this year’s 2,020 students a record for the district, he said.

“We all agree that times are tough for folks,” Davis said. “That’s obvious to everyone, but as I’ve said before, this comes down to protecting property values and preserving academic opportunities for kids. Strong communities that have high property values are those that have strong schools.”

If the levy doesn’t pass in November, Davis said it’s likely the board would want to put a levy on the ballot in 2013. The first opportunity would be in the Feb. 5 Special Election, but the filing deadline is Nov. 7, the day after the General Election.

Davis said he has recommended that the board refrain from going back on the levy at that point and instead look to the May Primary Election.

Additional information on the levy is available at www.woodridgesos.com.

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