School board votes to place 6.9-mill levy on ballot

Struthers residents and school employees had questions about funding and jobs.
STRUTHERS -- The city school board voted to put a 6.9-mill continuing tax levy on the November ballot before going into executive session at a special meeting Tuesday.
About 35 residents and nonteaching school employees crowded into the board room to raise questions about the levy and about projected job cuts at the schools, but were told the board would not hear their comments until its regular meeting Aug. 16.
The board adopted a tentative contract with members of its nonteaching union, which would be effective through June 30, 2006, pending the approval of a state financial oversight board created after the district declared fiscal emergency in May. The board did not reveal details of the contract.
After the board went into executive session to hear reports from a representative of the state auditor's office and to discuss an undisclosed grievance settlement, residents and school employees lingered outside the building to discuss their concerns.
Residents voice worries
Bill Polis, a resident who regularly attends the meetings, said he wants to know why the levy, which would raise an estimated $911,207 annually, or $0.69 per $100, was changed from the 8 mills defeated in the May primary to the currently proposed 6.9 mills.
"It's not their money," he said. "It's our money."
Another concerned resident, who identified herself only as Marilyn, said she felt that the district's financial problems are the state government's fault, not the school board's, and that Gov. Bob Taft could do more to help school districts in fiscal emergency, including Struthers.
School employees attending the meeting said they would not comment because they feared repercussions at their jobs.
After the meeting, board President Matthew Rhoads said an unexpectedly large response to open enrollment, which generates $5,500 per student, and unspecified spending reductions prompted the decrease in millage.
The board was not asking too much with the 8-mill levy in the spring because that amount was accurate based on the information it had at that time, he said.
He said the board remains hopeful that the 6.9-mill levy, which would support the district until 2010, will pass in November.
"Everybody has their opinion, but the bottom line is the kids still need educated," he said.
Rhoads said the projected staff reductions were recommended by Superintendent Sandra DiBacco, based on information provided by the state auditor's office.
The board could vote on the layoffs as early as its next meeting.

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