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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 5/1/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

Springfield seeks levy request

School board agrees on 7.9 mills as some residents question need

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the proposed 7.9-mill levy is permanent.

The Springfield Board of Education voted Wednesday to place a 7.9-mill permanent levy before voters at an Aug. 6 special election.

Board members voted unanimously in favor of the levy request, which if successful would generate about $5.4 million in annual revenue and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $276.50 a year.

“We will be bankrupt if we can’t pass the levy,” board member Keiran Menacher said.

Residents speaking during Wednesday’s meeting voiced opposition to the request and questioned district spending practices.

While the board claims the school district has no financial wiggle room, resident Gary Knapp countered that he doesn’t either.

“I have no well to go to,” Gary Knapp said about higher taxes.

The board had presented several levy options during recent community forums. District leaders say an 11.9-mill levy would be needed to plug the district’s forecast deficit without spending cuts.

Board members seemed set on a 7.9-mill levy before the meeting began. Several spoke in favor of that tax rate before yielding the floor to community members.

Board member Ken Musch said 7.9 mills would stabilize the district while taking taxpayers’ concerns into account.

“It seems like the 7.9-mill levy is the kind of compromise that would allow the district to make some headway,” he said.

Board members criticized insufficient state-education funding and unfunded mandates, including technology requirements for new state tests that will prove costly for school districts.

Resident Jessie Geis questioned merit raises given to administrators if the district is short on cash.

“If we had that problem, why would we give merit raises?” she asked.

The decision follows a March vote to pull a 3.9-mill operating levy off Tuesday’s primary ballot. The board said then that such a levy would be insufficient to address a $2.5 million budget deficit.

Board members said the district was committed to making $1 million in cuts in conjunction with seeking the levy.

After the board voted to request the levy, it discussed potential budget cuts and went into closed-door executive session.

A notice for the special meeting included no mention of such discussions, as required under Ohio’s Open Meetings law for special sessions.

School board President Sherri Koback said she did not believe the board violated the Open Meetings law.

This action followed an initial March vote that also occurred under an Open Meetings cloud. The board voted to remove the 3.9-mill proposal during a special meeting for which the notice said only that it would convene in closed session to discuss personnel.

The board later met again after The Blade questioned its vote’s legality and voted again, but board members denied at the time that their first vote had violated state law.

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



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