The Rossford schools will be asking voters for more operating money this year, according to the president of the board of education.
Board President Ken Sutter said after the board’s regular meeting last week that he expects a levy request to be on the Nov. 4 ballot, and explained that the board would discuss the new tax and how much to request when it had a better idea of the savings from closing Indian Hills Elementary School at the current school year’s end.
“With the consolidation of schools, we’ll have a better handle on what the savings are,” he said.
The Rossford district has not asked for additional operating funds in 12 years, but voters turned down requests for money to update its aged facilities in 2010 and 2013.
Years of deficit spending have sapped the district’s cash reserves. Revenue has not exceeded expenses since 2009-10.
Costs have been cut in areas such as vocational instruction and academic intervention assistants.
Without new revenue, more spending cuts, or a combination of the two, the district is projected to finish the 2014-15 year with a deficit exceeding $600,000. The red ink grows to almost $6 million a year after that.
The board decided a year ago to shutter Indian Hills as a cost-cutting move, transferring students in prekindergarten through second grade to Glenwood Elementary, students in grades three to five to Eagle Point Elementary, and sixth graders to the junior high school.
At a board of education meeting last week, Treasurer James Rossler noted the district has obtained two operating levies since 1992. The first, adopted in that year, was for 7.9 mills; 10 years later, voters approved a second millage in the same amount. Both levies have been renewed.
“There are very few districts in the state of Ohio that have stretched their money the way Rossford has over the past 12 years and furthermore over the last 22 years,” he told the school board in a report on the district’s financial condition.
The treasurer said that until the last five to seven years, Rossford schools were “enjoying growth in both residential and commercial real estate” that allowed for increased spending, “but that growth is simply not there at the present time.”
Making matters worse, he continued, was the phase-out of Ohio’s tangible personal property tax on businesses, which has reduced tax collections by $400,000 per year and will result in a loss of $ 5.3 million over 13 years. Moreover, shrinking real estate values have cut another $1 million in annual tax collections.
Despite the growing budget deficit, the current three-year teacher’s contract, adopted in August, includes pay increases and 4 percent annual step increases in most years, but requires teachers to pay more for their medical insurance. The agreement will result in a net cost increase of $53,000 the first year, $215,000 the second year, and $453,750 in the third.
Rossford’s teachers are the highest paid in Wood County, and at an average salary of $65,852 in 2009-10 were paid about $10,000 more per year than the state average, according to the Ohio Department of Education.