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Friday, July 25, 2014
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Published: Friday, 3/21/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Springfield Board of Education removed 3.9-mill operating levy

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Springfield Board of Education voted Wednesday to pull a planned May levy off the ballot, but the board will meet again to discuss the issue in public.

The announcement Thursday came after The Blade raised questions about whether the first action violated state law.

District leaders said they voted to remove the 3.9-mill operating levy that was to appear on the May 6 ballot because they determined it would be insufficient to stabilize the district’s finances. Springfield administrators said they realized in recent weeks that the district’s finances were more perilous than they had thought, and they did not want voters to approve a levy only to have the district quickly come back with another funding request.

Board members met for a special session Wednesday to “discuss personnel,” according to its meeting notice; a district spokesman clarified that the meeting was so the board could go into “executive session to discuss specific staff reductions.” Superintendent Kathryn Hott said staff wanted to present board members with possible staff cuts before asking voters for more revenue.

“We talked personnel and about staffing reductions, and it was not a pleasant meeting,” Springfield board Vice President Ken Musch said, “because nobody wants to eliminate people’s jobs.”

When board members left their executive session, they promptly voted to pull the levy request. Ohio law does not permit boards to discuss or act on items at special meetings other than those referenced in notices. The law also does not allow for an executive session for the issue of a levy.

It’s unclear what prompted board members to vote to pull the levy, as they spent only minutes in open session, according to meeting minutes.

The Blade raised questions Thursday to Springfield officials about the legality of both the meeting notice and how the meeting was conducted. The Blade was told Thursday that the board today would issue a notice that it would meet Monday to discuss the levy.

Ms. Hott said she did not believe board members violated the law because all decisions were made in public, and said the board did not discuss the levy in executive session. She said the meeting notice did not mention the levy because board members did not know in advance they would vote.

“They had no intention of pulling that levy [before the meeting],” Ms. Hott said.

A statement issued Thursday announcing the board decision cited multiple factors for removing the levy, such as decreased revenues, costs associated with Ohio’s achievement testing, wage and health care benefits within negotiated personnel contracts, and a fluctuating number of students.

“We believe that we now have a more complete snapshot of the district’s financial outlook,” Sherri Koback, the board president, said in the statement.

Ms. Koback said the district would consider another levy request.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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