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Manchester district seeking new revenue

10/10/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — The Manchester Local School District is asking voters to approve Issue No. 45, a new, five-year 5.99-mill operating levy on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot.

According to Superintendent Sam Reynolds, the levy would cost the owner of a property valued at $100,000 about $210 annually in new taxes and raise a little more than $1.1 million annually for the district’s General Fund. The levy would be effective this year, with collections to start in 2014.

Revenue from the district’s General Fund is used to pay for operating expenses that include employee salaries and benefits, purchased services such as insurance and contract services, textbooks, transportation, extracurricular programs for students, materials and supplies, according to Reynolds.

The levy is affected by Gov. John Kasich’s biennial budget approved this past June that changed the property tax rollbacks and the Homestead Exemption on new levies, according to Manchester Treasurer David Osborne. He said that in the past, the state kicked in 12.5 percent for school and other levies, but under that new provision, property owners will now pay 100 percent of any new and replacement levies approved by voters. The state will continue to pay the 12.5 percent on current levies and their renewals, but new levies will not be subsidized by the 12.5 percent from the state.

Reynolds and Osborne said the levy is needed for three reasons.

“The district is facing a ‘perfect storm,’” said Reynolds. “We are dealing with reduced funding and increased costs.”

Reynolds explained state and federal cutbacks have reduced the district’s budget by more than $1.2 million since the 2010-11 school year. Kasich’s recent biennial budget shows the district will get a total of $110,000 in additional funding assistance for 2013-14 and 2014-15, according to Osborne.

In response to decreased funding, the district has been forced to freeze salaries for all staff for the past five years, and teaching and administrative positions have been cut, according to Osborne. He added employee salaries and benefits made up 77.5 percent of the budget last year, down from 80 percent in the previous year.

“Schools are employee intensive, and our employees are making less,” said Reynolds. “Manchester teachers are the lowest paid teachers in Summit County at every salary category.”

In other cuts, decreases to purchased services saved the district $58,500 last year, according to Osborne. Also, the district recently offered open enrollment in kindergarten through eighth grade in an effort to increase revenue.

Reynolds said areas of increasing cost for the district include: special education; 21st-century learning, including global society curriculums, technology and online state testing required starting next year; safety and furniture, including vestibules and communications systems to control access to school buildings; and health care costs.

For 2013-14, those increased costs are estimated to total $496,500, according to Osborne.

“While we have cut people, we have been able to maintain our programing, which includes academics and extra-curricular activities such as athletics and the arts, because we believe it is important to the development of our students, ” said Reynolds. “But we can’t cut the budget enough to get out of this problem. We have nowhere else to go but back to the people.”

Reynolds added that if the levy fails, the district likely would return to the ballot in February or May next year. District officials also begin meeting in January to create Manchester’s 2014-15 budget, which is established in April, and Osborne said the district would have to consider an estimated $800,000 in cuts in preparation for another failure. Even if it is approved, the district will have lost a half-year of collection, he added.

Reynolds stated that while the district supports the Ohio Department of Education’s Common Core curriculum, it is limited by its finances, and the district may have to make difficult decision regarding programming.

“Everything will be considered equally for the cuts this time, including programing and transportation, as well as personnel,” said Reynolds. “This vote is for children, because programing will have to be significantly reduced if the levy fails.”

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