NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WYTV) – Schools are the focal points of communities in the Valley.
At least three are asking voters to dig a little deeper in their pocket for support. For some districts, it is building new schools. For others, it is a matter of keeping the lights on.
WYTV learned more more about the issues that two local school districts are facing as they go to the ballot this November for further support.
Newton Falls Exempted Village Schools has not received any new operating money since 1991 — that is 24 years without a levy passage. The district is now asking voters to approve a 6-mill levy that would generate $739,000 for the district.
The district has already made cuts and say there is little left to trim from the budget.
The district’s financial situation is a basic math problem: it has lost almost $4 million in state funding since 2009 and another $5 million between open enrollment and charter schools.
“We need more money just to pay our bills,” Newton Falls Exempted Village Schools Superintendent Paul Woodard said.
He said that is exactly what the levy will do if it passes.
In the last five years, the district has cut programs, staff took a pay freeze in 2013, and when teachers retire, they are not always replaced.
“We had to borrow $300,000 to meet our payroll in June,” Woodard said. “We have been in deficit spending.”
The levy would cost taxpayer $15 a month for a home assessed at $85,000. If it fails, the district will keep putting the issue on the ballot but increase the millage.
Woodard said there is also a possibility of a state takeover.
“Eventually, I’d say within a year and a half to two years, the state would probably come in and take us over,” he said.
The story is different at Central Elementary School in Champion.
The century-old building has severe foundation issues, including an addition which is pulling away from the original building.
Babette Sisler, co-chair of the Champion Bond Issue, said financial constraints have prohibited the building from being repaired.
“The state actually told us it would cost taxpayers even more money to just try to repair,” she said.
The bond committee is asking voters to approve a 4.4-mill bond issue to build a new K-8 facility. The Ohio Facilities Commission deemed the elementary and middle schools as complete re-builds. It is also offering more than 50 percent of funding for the project.
The district will have to come up with the rest of the funds.
“We only have, like I said, 12 months to be able to take advantage of returning those tax dollars to our community and plant them in our backyard in a form of a K-8,” Sisler said.
If the bond issue passes, it is an extra $14 a month for taxpayers with a home value of $100,000.