Woodridge focusing on levy passage
For the third time in less than a year, the Woodridge Local School District is asking taxpayers to pass an emergency operating levy.
The usual summer planning is under way for the beginning of the new school year — approving contracts for food service, bus drivers, coaches, programs — but the main topic of discussion at the Board of Education’s July 10 meeting was the district’s continuing ability to pay for it all.
Issue No. 5, a 6.83-mill emergency levy on the Aug. 7 Special Election ballot, is planned to raise $3 million per year for five years. Without new tax revenue approved by voters this year, Treasurer Deanna Levenger has said the district will be $8 million in debt by 2016.
School districts are not permitted to operate with a deficit but must balance their budgets each year. Woodridge has made $1.8 million in budget cuts in the past year to try to offset the decreased revenues and increasing expenses.
Because of the urgent need for new revenue to break even, the school board voted unanimously to put another five-year, 6.83-mill emergency levy on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot in case the August levy does not pass. If it passes, the November levy will be removed from the ballot, said Superintendent Walter Davis.
Davis reported that a study of the demographics of the Woodridge community shows that only 14 percent of residential taxpayers have children in the Woodridge district. This low percentage of people directly affected “paints a picture of urgency,” Davis said, in the need to convince voters that not funding the schools adequately would weaken the quality of the Woodridge education and, with it, the property values of district homeowners.
What if the August levy fails? The first step has already been taken, Davis said, in putting a back-up levy on the November ballot.
If neither levy passes — so no new revenue comes in 2013 — Levenger has said that salary expenses would need to be reduced by $1.2 million and benefits by $600,000 to keep the district in the black through 2015. The cuts would need to be made by July 1, 2013, she said.
Davis said that community members “have requested that we keep the cuts away from the kids, but we can’t anymore.” Cutting a total of $1.8 million would mean eliminating about 20 full-time teachers, which would be about 15 percent of the district’s staff. “It will impact the students, because we have nowhere else to go,” said Davis.
The district has already cut positions and doubled up the workloads of support staff and administrators, he said. For instance, there is no longer a gifted coordinator; now Valerie Riedthaler is doing that job, along with her duties as director of pupil services. Woodridge High School Assistant Principal Don Ross is now also the athletic director.
“We don’t have any fluff left” to cut, said Board President Tammy Heffernan.
Community members have said, “Don’t threaten us,” Davis said, adding he and board members are just trying to answer the questions about what will happen if there is no new funding.
“We don’t have money to pay the bills,” he said, so if neither levy passes, there will have to be “massive cuts in programs.”
The new pay-to-participate fees for sports and other extracurricular activities are too low to cover the expenses of the programs, Davis said. But raising them enough to cover the costs would make them prohibitive for many families with multiple children in multiple activities, so the programs might have to be eliminated if a levy doesn’t pass to help pay for them, he said.
School officials would look at elective courses to see which might be dropped, he said, even though the state of Ohio requires high school students to take a number of electives beyond the core credits to graduate.
Even if the levy passes, district officials have said there will need to be more cuts, but not nearly as large as without the levy. If 20 teachers must be cut from this small school system, “class sizes are going to be huge,” said Davis.
Levy campaigns are not paid for out of the General Fund but by raising outside money, and the levy committee is holding fundraisers to pay for signs, postcard mailings, etc., according to district officials.
On July 25, On Tap restaurant at 3263 State Road will donate to the levy campaign 10 percent of its sales to people who have a flier, which is available at the district’s Administration Building, 4411 Quick Road, and online at www.woodridgesos.com.
There also will be a Community Day rally at the high school Aug. 4 with donated fireworks, food and beverages donated by vendors, and a classic car show.
For details on the levy, go to www.woodridgesos.com.
The school board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Administration Building.
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