SCHOOLS Niles levy committee spells out the details

Money spent for student supplies is way down, the superintendent noted.
NILES -- With the Niles City Schools facing state fiscal emergency status, district officials are hoping residents will vote yes on a five-year 4.8-mill levy on Feb. 8.
The district's levy committee addressed members of the community at Niles Middle School on Thursday to provide information regarding the deficit and what it means to the district and the taxpayers.
A PowerPoint presentation provided a breakdown of the district's revenue, expenditures and just what the cost will be to the taxpayer if the levy passes.
The levy would generate $1.3 million a year and is part of a recovery plan requested by the Ohio Department of Education that shows how the schools will avoid the anticipated $999,000 deficit at the end of the 2004-05 school year. That deficit is expected to be as much as $8.74 million by the end of 2007-08.
Superintendent's assessment
Schools Superintendent Rocco Adduci said that the district lost more than $600,000 in state funding last year because of pupils opting for open enrollment at other school districts. It also had to borrow $800,000 in July and $70,000 in December to cover payroll expenses, he said.
"We have close to 100 students on open enrollment going to other school districts at $5,200 per pupil," Adduci told the audience. "The state of Ohio pays us just $2,300 per pupil, but when we lose a student to open enrollment they take $5,200 of our money."
One item that Adduci called the "most appalling item" on the expenditures list was the amount the district spends on educational supplies and materials for pupils.
"That's a sin," he said about the $239,000-per-year figure. "Many years ago, that figure was much, much larger. But as other expenses go up, that is the only thing we can cut -- what we put on the student's desks."
Based on an appraised value of a $100,000 home, the net cost per year from the tax increase would be $147, or -- as Adduci put it -- "less than a cup of coffee" per day.
"The most important thing to the taxpayers is, 'What is this going to cost me?'" added Adduci. "Now, is this an exorbitant amount to ask to keep our school district out of fiscal emergency? If the levy fails, we are in fiscal emergency and the state will make cuts accordingly to get us back in the black five years from now."
Previous action
Adduci said the district has already taken action to deal with its financial problems, including staff reductions, which have saved $1.2 million through attrition of 13 employees, changing health-care benefit packages and eliminating the purchase of new textbooks and preventive maintenance on school buildings.
Instructional fees have also been increased, overtime has been reduced and one elementary building was closed, he said.
During a question-and-answer session with audience members, a question was asked about the future of football and other extracurricular activities should the levy fail.
"When the state comes in, they will probably look at the minimum standards and cut noneducational items first," answered Adduci. "Will they cut football? Will they have to pay to participate? Those are things that will have to be addressed, but more than likely these types of things will happen."
Another question involved the status of teaching and nonteaching union employees whose contracts expire at the end of the school year.
"We do not have a contract with both of our unions at the end of this school year. If the levy fails, within two months we will be placed in fiscal emergency," Adduci said.
"Both of those contracts are nonexistent. The state will then come in and make cuts to both of those staffs. That means secretaries, custodians, cafeteria, bus drivers and teachers."
The next committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 27 at the high school.
School board meeting
Before Thursday's levy committee meeting, the board of education held an organizational meeting. President Pro-Tem John Davis was elected president and Marlene Rhodes named vice president.
Nick Bernard was appointed the Niles City Parks Department advisory board representative and Rhodes was appointed the legislative liaison to the Ohio School Board Association.
The board also set the dates for regular meetings this year, with the next meeting to be at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at the high school.

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