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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 3/27/2013

Sylvania schools consider operating levy

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania Schools officials told board of education members tonight that based on falling property values and decreases in state funding over the past several years, an operating levy is in the district's future.

Superintendent Brad Rieger and Treasurer Laura Sauber walked board members through the district's financials, to prepare them for an operating levy in the near future, and so they could consider the best timing to place it on the ballot.

Mr. Rieger said the administration has made an effort to contain expenses, however, revenue losses mean a new operating levy will likely be placed on the ballot in November, or May 2014 is in order for the school to maintain its quality education.

“We make sure our students have skills that will make them successful in college and the workforce,” he said, pointing out the district’s pride points before detailing its financial challenges. “We want our students to be great human beings making a contribution and making a difference in the world.”

No decisions were made tonight.

School officials predict a $3 million deficit by 2015, despite an effort to scale back operations and streamline services.

“So this means we need to prepare for an operating levy,” Mr. Rieger said.

Since 2012, the district has seen a reduction of about $4.5 million per year in state funding and reimbursements. If there was no increase in state funds for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 they forecasted that the district would have a total decrease of $16,382,000 in state funds and reimbursements by fiscal year 2015.

Another factor that has affected the school budget is the loss in revenue from the school’s tax base. Mrs. Sauber said starting this year, the district will lose $2.3 million per year from property tax decreases.

In the 2010-11, and 2011-12 school years, the district eliminated 120 positions and reduced the cost per student to $10,600 from about $12,000 in 2010 to adjust to the new economic reality, said Mr. Rieger.

Dustrict officials are awaiting finalization of Gov. John Kasich's state budget bill this summer before they choose a levy amount.

“I anticipate that by July we will come forward with what the best opportunity is,” Mr. Rieger said.

Mrs. Sauber explained that funding for special education programs, the district’s career tech or vocational program, and transportation are missing pieces in the governor's budget.

Other expenses have also crept up in the past years, such as health Insurance premiums, which saw a 9 percent increase because of claims increases, and might see another 5 percent jump in 2014, Mrs. Sauber said.

The district is also faced with costs related to instructional and operational needs such as state mandated online assessments, keeping abreast of evolving technology, and continuing safety and security training.

Both Mr. Rieger and Mrs. Sauber underlined efforts to cut the waste and run a lean district.

Mr. Rieger pointed to the district’s effort to generate funds privately to cover improvements to the athletic facilities, and to support technology needs.

“We are taking a look at our vendors for copiers, insurance, banking services to see where we can lower cost,” Mrs. Sauber said.

School board president Vicki Donovan-Lyle thanked them both for outlining the economic situation, and "for making us understand the losses we sustained, not just us, but districts across the state."

After the meeting Mrs. Donovan-Lyle called the proposed levy a matter of maintenance, rather than one of improvement.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356 or ntrusso@theblade.com.



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