Springfield schools puts 2.9-mill levy on fall ballot


Editor's note: This story corrects deadline date for filing levy ballot issues

The Springfield Board of Education voted Thursday to place a permanent new money levy on the November ballot.

The board held a special meeting about the 2.9-mill levy. Administrators had presented 2.9 and 3.9-mill levy options at a regular meeting on Wednesday, with the board deciding Thursday on the lesser amount. Ryan Lockwood, treasurer of Springfield Local Schools, said 2.9 mills should raise roughly $1.8 million a year, while a 3.9-mill levy would raise about $2.4 million.

The board voted unanimously to place the 2.9-mill operating levy on the ballot. The deadline to file November levy ballot issues with the Lucas County Board of Elections is Aug. 7.

The levy would be continuous, meaning it would be permanent if approved. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $100 annually.

Mr. Lockwood said he projects deficit spending of about $1 million in this coming year. Future deficits would put the district in “dire need” by fiscal 2018, and he said he hopes the 2.9-mill levy would keep the district from deficit-spending during the next five years.

Springfield Superintendent Kathryn Hott said in February that the board has cut $3.5 million in spending in the last three years. The Springfield district also cut about $2 million from the budget before Mr. Lockwood joined the administration in 2010, he said.

The board voted on Jan. 23 for a 5.9-mill levy to be placed on the May ballot, but after deciding to wait for the state budget’s June release, members voted unanimously Feb. 4 to remove the levy proposal from the ballot. With voter approval, it would have generated an estimated $3,776,000 annually for the district starting next year.

The district will receive a 6.5 percent increase in state funding under the new budget bill, which will give the district a financial boost of more than $300,000, Mr. Lockwood said. That added funding allowed the board to lower the proposed levy's millage, Ms. Hott said.

Springfield voters narrowly approved a 3.9-mill levy in 2010 that added about $2 million in local tax income. But that’s been offset by decreased property values and reduced state and federal funding that have meant about $2.48 million less a year, Mr. Lockwood said.

“When our millage decreases, [the school district] ends up losing funding at a local level,” he said. “The millage rate that Springfield collects is at a 12-year low. Twelve years ago, one mill generated $800,000. Today, one mill generates $640,000.”

Ms. Hott said the levy also is needed to pay for new state mandates and cover the district’s general expenses. Those mandates include a new system of evaluating teachers and principals, a third grade guarantee, and a change to Common Core State Standards, Ms. Hott said.

New computer-based state tests that will be paired with the Common Core require the district to buy more technological equipment, she said.

“We still have a large number of unfunded mandates,” she said. “There are major, major changes, but right now, they come with insufficient funding.”

Contact Rosa Nguyen at: rnguyen@theblade.com or 419-724-6018.