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TIF troubles hit Woodridge Schools

10/25/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

The Woodridge Local School District is getting hit financially by the after-effects of the city of Akron’s tax-increment financing (TIF) offered to businesses.

The city offers tax abatements to businesses to get them to locate in the area. Summit County collects taxes from the businesses and pays the appropriate amount of revenue to the school districts, unless there is an abatement.

Numerous local companies had applied to the state for TIF tax abatement, and there was a backlog dating back to 2006 waiting for approval. Some of those have recently been approved.

The Akron Public School District learned in September that it must pay $3.2 million back to the city for abatements that it didn’t know existed.

Woodridge Treasurer Deanna Levenger said Oct. 16 that upon checking, she found that Woodridge Local Schools also will need to pay the city of Akron an estimated $291,000 next spring to pay back the revenue that, it turns out, was not theirs to use once the abatements were approved.

The district had no notification of the pending tax abatements, Levenger said, and this has not happened before. She wondered why the state took up to six years to approve the agreements, why the district wasn’t notified about the pending abatements and why the county didn’t put the tax money in a reserve fund instead of paying it to the schools.

As a result, Levenger prepared a revised five-year financial forecast for the Woodridge Board of Education to approve at the Oct. 16 meeting. She said school districts are required to submit the projections to the Ohio Department of Education.

In addition to the unexpected TIF payout, Levenger said the new forecast also reflects a lower than expected August real estate tax collection. In September, the district received $265,000 less than it had projected in property tax revenue. This was likely due to an increase in delinquent taxpayers, she said.

Woodridge has a 6.83-mill emergency levy, Issue No. 71, on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.

 “We will be in dire straits going into 2013 if the levy doesn’t pass,” Levenger said.

All of the district’s financial information is posted on its website, www.woodridge.k12.oh.us, she said.

In other business, the president of the Woodridge Foundation, Jeff Wilhite, presented the school board with an oversize check for $150,000 to be used to renovate a Woodridge High School science lab for the Biomedical Engineering and Technology Academy (BETA).

The BETA at Woodridge is a program of the Six District Educational Compact (Woodridge, Kent, Hudson, Tallmadge, Cuyahoga Falls and Stow-Munroe Falls districts), in which students from all of those districts may attend the special class at Woodridge, with the districts sharing the expenses.

The foundation also donated $40,000 for equipment for all science classes at Woodridge, Wilhite said.

Superintendent Walter Davis thanked Wilhite and the foundation and pointed out that it was all privately raised money, donated specifically for this purpose, with no General Fund money involved. The lab renovation should be finished by January, he said.

In the superintendent’s monthly student recognition, first- and second-graders from Woodridge Primary School were honored for their good character and behavior.

Introduced by Principal Karen Sykes, each teacher presented one student. Those honored were first-graders Amanda Igleheart, Aziah Sangarie, Evan Duve, Adeline Mayer, Sam Su and Alexandria Palmer.

Outstanding second-graders presented were Franklin Beatie, Sofi Miller, Lilly Yajko, Keely Clinton, Grace Francis and Joy McFarland, with Robbie Champa absent.

Davis reported that at the Summit County Education Celebration Oct. 15, Woodridge High School math teacher Mary Ann Krawczonek was named to the 2012 All-County Teaching Team.

Maureen Farris, in her third year teaching at Woodridge Intermediate School, was named Rookie Teacher of the Year at the event. [See related Education News & Notes item below for more on that.]

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

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