School districts say levies are vital

By David J. Coehrs -

Wauseon schools are asking voters to approve a 3.87-mill substitute levy next Tuesday.

Wauseon schools are asking voters to approve a 3.87-mill substitute levy next Tuesday.

Two Fulton County school districts are counting on voters next Tuesday to bolster their coffers and help prevent cuts that will be likely without financial assistance.

Wauseon Exempted Village Schools are asking for passage of a 3.87-mill substitute levy that Treasurer David Fleming has called “critical.” The proposed levy, which is not a new tax, would be a continuing levy that eliminates the need for renewal every five years. The levy would generate the original levy’s annual amount of $835,000, but would allow for additional revenue generated by new local construction projects.

Fleming previously told the Board of Education the buying power of the levy has dropped to just under $420,000 due to a 91% jump in inflation since the original levy passed in 1991. He said the school district remains in deficit spending.

A failure of the proposed levy would mean a reduced force and a probable wage freeze, and would put the school district on the Ohio Department of Education’s fiscal watch list.

Pike-Delta-York Local Schools are also hurting financially, and have asked voters to approve a five-year, 1% income tax levy that is estimated to generate approximately $1.5 million annually. The school district’s revenues have increased only a fraction over one-half of 1% over the past five years, and abatement agreements for construction and commercial projects have eliminated district growth. State foundation payments have decreased over five years, with a loss totaling $54,500.

Troy Armstrong, Wauseon schools superintendent, said because the substitute levy involves no new tax “we are confident our community support will continue as it always has.” He noted that between 62%-65% of voters supported previous levies.

Armstrong said a failed levy would spur school administrators to identify what reductions would be necessary for the 2021-22 school year. He said at this time extracurricular activities haven’t been under consideration.

The superintendent did not name specific areas that would be vulnerable to reductions.

The school district held two public meetings each in both September and October to emphasize the financial necessity of the proposed levy. Armstrong said, despite the current state of the economy, he believes in the community’s support for its schools.

PDY Superintendent Ted Haselman said the district’s revenue streams are not improving from the local community even as expenses continue to increase. He said state funding has been decreased over the past two years, back to the amount received in 2014.

“This inflation increase to expenses is no different than we would see as personal consumers – the cost of utilities, vehicles, homes, groceries, etc. all increase over time,” Haselman said. “A school district’s expenses continue to do the same – the district’s cost of buses, classroom supplies, facilities maintenance, personnel costs, textbooks, technology, and utilities increase over time, too.”

And although House Bill 920, passed in 1976, has forced the majority of Ohio’s school districts to ask residents for money every three years, Delta schools have not requested a new levy since 2011, he said.

“The district continues to strive for fiscal responsibility, and I believe with the average school district request for new money across the state at every three years, our request for a new levy after nine years shows we are being fiscally responsible. We are hopeful our community feels the same and shows their support at the polls,” Haselman said.

He added that PDY schools have the second lowest tax rate of the county’s seven school districts. And he said an unsuccessful levy won’t erase the district’s need for new revenue.

“Just like all organizations, we cannot sustain flat or decreasing revenue with increased expenses,” he said.

Should the levy fail, PDY administrators will be forced to review what reductions are necessary, Haselman said. Five staff member positions were reduced for the current school year, and “obviously, as time goes on without additional funding, more and more staffing and district programs would need to be evaluated,” he said. He did not offer specific reduction possibilities.

Levy information has been provided to all district households, and Haselman has spoken at township meetings. He said he feels upbeat about community support.

“All the conversations revolving around the levy have been positive. Educating a child is an important task,” he said.

Wauseon schools are asking voters to approve a 3.87-mill substitute levy next Tuesday. schools are asking voters to approve a 3.87-mill substitute levy next Tuesday.

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.