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Published: Tuesday, 2/12/2013

Springfield school board pulls 5.9-mill levy off of May’s ballot

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Springfield Local Schools officials have withdrawn a levy request from the May 7 ballot after deciding to have a staffing audit performed before asking district taxpayers for more money.

Postponing a 5.9-mill levy the Springfield Board of Education had voted Jan. 23 to submit to voters in May also will allow time for the board to observe the legislative fate of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s proposed education budget for 2014-15, Superintendent Kathryn Hott said Friday.

The board voted unanimously Feb. 4 to remove the levy proposal from the ballot. With voter approval, it would have generated an estimated $3,776,000 annually for the district starting next year.

During the last three years, Ms. Hott said, the school board has cut $3.5 million in spending, so at first blush “there’s not a lot we can do with staff” without immediately biting into academics.

Nevertheless, the staffing audit to be performed by the Ohio Department of Education will review the district’s faculty as well as its maintenance staff, programs, and transportation to look for areas of inefficiency compared with what other districts do, she said.

The audit will be performed at no cost to the district and should be done by mid-April, which will leave time for the school board to act if it decides to place a levy on the August ballot, the superintendent said.

By then, Ms. Hott said, the district also may know what to expect in state education funding. While an initial summary showed a 38 percent increase for Springfield, she said, that jump may actually reflect miscategorized funding for the district’s share of services provided by the Lucas County Educational Services Center.

Springfield voters in 2010 approved, by just 55 votes, a 3.9-mill levy that added about $2 million to the district’s local tax income.

But that boost has been more than offset by the $2.48 million in revenue district officials say has been lost because of lower property values and reduced federal and state funding — the latter including Ohio’s accelerated phase-out of two business taxes.

Ms. Hott said the school system simultaneously faces equipment expenses to comply with a legislative decision to require Ohio’s standardized tests to be taken online starting next year.

“People are really proud of the schools, and they should be,” the superintendent said. But he added that residents need to realize that when lower property values reduce their tax bills, that also means the school district is collecting less.



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