CANFIELD SCHOOLS Board mulls levy

Without additional funds for 2003, the district would be in a fiscal emergency.
CANFIELD -- The Canfield school board will be host of a public forum Feb. 7 to talk with school district residents about placing an operating levy on the May ballot.
Superintendent Doug Hiscox said the levy would help produce about $1.5 million to fund district operations. Officials have not set a millage or length for the levy.
The forum will be at 7 p.m. in Zion Lutheran Church on state Route 62. The board also has called a special meeting Feb. 11 to discuss the levy.
A resolution to place the levy on the ballot could be approved at the Feb. 13 regular board meeting, Hiscox said.
Paying for operations: District operations are paid for with state money and a 6.9-mill, five-year operating levy that was passed in 1994 and renewed in 1999. The levy produces about $2.2 million each year.
The district has a $19.5 million general fund budget this year.
Hiscox said that board members have known for several years that they would eventually have to seek additional money for the budget. However, he also said that the board members didn't begin to seriously discuss a levy until last year, when they needed to dip into the carry-over funds to pay bills.
Between 1995 and 2000, the board carried over at least $2 million from each fiscal year's budget to the next, even though the amount of revenue generated by the 6.9-mill levy did not change. The district's fiscal year runs from July to June.
Hiscox said that while money generated by the levy did not increase, expenses increased by an average of 4 percent during each of those years.
Possible situation: Hiscox said that without additional funds in 2003, the district would not have enough money in the carry-over to pay for increased costs. The state auditor could then declare that the district is in a fiscal emergency and appoint an oversight commission to handle district finances.
"The state of Ohio would come in and make decisions on how your district operates," Hiscox said.
Hiscox noted that the board has already cut a total of $248,000 from noncontract accounts in this year's budget in an effort to save money. The board also cut $161,000 out of the proposed budget next year.
The cuts were approved Monday night.
Public forum: Hiscox said the board discussed some of the district's financial issues with local residents at a public forum last week. Those residents asked about the board's purchase of 27 acres of land on the outskirts of Canfield in July, as well as administration costs in the district, he said.
Hiscox answered that he has found that the board's administration costs are less than the administrative costs of other similar-sized districts of in Ohio. He added that the land, which cost $430,000, was purchased with a loan. The loan is paid for with money that had been used to pay off a similar loan early last year.
"Selling the property won't change the need for the additional revenue," he said.

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