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Published: Thursday, 4/17/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Springfield Local Schools looks at levy options

Audience members give input at meeting

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Without speaking a word, a plurality of Springfield Local Schools residents at a public forum Wednesday night indicated support for a new operating levy that would be paired with cuts to programs and services.

The superintendent and treasurer outlined the district’s plight, which includes increased state mandates without funding, reduced property tax revenues, and increased health-care costs.

“It’s a good start of gathering information, so the board can decide what to do next,” Sherri Koback, board president, said after the meeting. “It’s not a pretty picture, but we need their input.”

The board next meets at 5 p.m. Wednesday. It has until April 30 to place a levy on the August ballot, treasurer Mindy Ward said.

In the forum held at a Providence Lutheran Church meeting room, only residents — about 200 of the 300 in attendance, district officials estimated — were given remote-control-sized devices. Former superintendent Cynthia Beekley then posed several multiple choice questions. The voters pressed a button that matched their response, and the results flashed on a screen for the crowd to see.

The option of an 8.9-mill levy, which would preserve cuts — including eliminating the jobs of a secretary and library clerks — while designating $400,000 for technology, received 27 percent approval, while a 6.9-mill levy that preserved cuts received 15 percent. An option for an 11.9-mill levy with no cuts received 34 percent, while an option to place no levy on the ballot received 24 percent.

Superintendent Kathryn Hott had earlier told the group that a levy failure could result in deeper cuts, including the elimination of Junior ROTC and transportation for high school and some elementary students, and a 50 percent cut to extracurricular activities.

The meeting was held less than a month after the Board of Education voted to pull a 3.9-mill operating levy off the May ballot because the district determined that, even with passage, the district would still face a $2.5-million budget deficit next year.

“It’s unusual for a board vote to put a millage on and then vote to remove it,” Ms. Hott said after the meeting. She said the forum was called to educate the community and to take its pulse.

The board said the forum has given them a lot of information in terms of what to do next, Ms. Hott said.

Ms. Hott emphasized to the crowd that the cuts were being considered by the school board, but “they have not been approved. That’s why you’re here tonight.”

Ms. Koback said the 11.9-mill option was presented because residents asked board members to calculate a levy amount that would require no cuts. That levy amount would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $416.50 a year.

“I don’t see it being on the ballot,” Ms. Koback said after the meeting.

The 6.9-mill levy would cost that homeowner $241.50 a year, while an 8.9-mill levy would cost $311.50 a year, officials said in their presentation.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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