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Published: Tuesday, 5/27/2014

Sylvania school board will not support a November 2014 levy

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania School board members presented a united front Tuesday, saying they will not pursue a levy in November.

Board President Jim Nusbaum lead the declaration at Tuesday’s meeting, saying he has considered the community feedback and reviewed the five-year financial forecast rejected by voters in the May 6 levy defeat. Those factors combined led him to decide he would not support a November 2014 levy.

“We need to understand the voters had an opportunity to have a say on this model,” he said, adding if new information presents itself he could change his mind.

The district‘s 3.8 mill tax request was defeated by more than 500 votes. Sylvania’s levy would have collected an estimated $4.9 million per year in revenue for personnel, curriculum and technology. It would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home an estimated $133 each year.

Board member Stephen Rothschild, while echoing Mr. Nusbaum’s statement about holding off on another levy this year, said the board must better communicate with the public on why the district is financially strained.

“Our property taxes are truly down, while our expenses are fixed … You can see that in 2016 our cash balance goes negative. We have almost a $14 million deficit by 2018. I agree with you that voters spoke in terms of what their intentions are, but I think maybe in the future we may need to better educate the public as to why we asked for the levy,” he said.

Those statements, as well as other members saying they too will not support a November levy request, came after the administration presented the five-year forecast, which paints the district‘s financial outlook through 2018. A deficit of about $500,000 is forecasted in 2016 and is expected to increase to $6 million in 2017.

About $900,000 worth of expenses have been pushed back to the 2016 budget, which runs from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, Superintendent Brad Rieger said. Ten positions will not be filled this year, including four guidance counselors, four instructional staff, and two support staff for tech support and maintenance.

The district has put off purchasing more Chromebooks, placing the one-to-one digital learning initiative on the back burner. The district intended to have a laptop for every student. The district also will postpone purchasing textbooks and digital material for science and social studies.

Instead, the district will focus on using digital tools to teach English language arts, reading, and math for elementary and junior high grades, Adam Fineske, director of curriculum, said. He said teachers will adjust to a “hybrid” way of teaching using books and digital materials as needed.  

Mr. Rieger said the administration is reviewing instructional materials at the high school level. He told the board it plans to “tighten” bus routes and make adjustments to other operations in order to cope with levy failure. 

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



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