Schools: No choice but to seek levies

By Karl Henkel

Administrators of Poland and Canfield schools say they have tried to slash budgets in the wake of a down economy and with cutbacks in state funding, but say they have no choice but to ask for more local taxpayer money.

Both districts are seeking renewal and emergency levies on the May 3 primary ballot.

One issue surrounding both Canfield and Poland is that they receive some of the lowest percentages of state funding in the county, and that number continues to shrink as details of Gov. John Kasich’s budget become clearer.

Overall, both Poland, which has about a $24 million annual budget, and Canfield, at $26 million, stand to lose about $1 million and $1.2 million in state funding, respectively.

Among the cuts, Poland will see its tangible personal property tax reimbursement — $410,000 — dissolve in 2012. Canfield stands to lose $470,000 in TPP.

Poland voters shot down a 3.9-mill levy in November, but the district has placed a 4.9-mill, five-year, $1.875 million emergency levy on the ballot.

Superintendent Robert Zorn said the difference in millage is to make up for lost funds between November and May. But that hasn’t stopped school-board member Robert Shovlin from publicly disagreeing with the increase, partly because voters nixed the 3.9-mill levy and also because Kasich’s budget is still a long way from being finalized.

“I’m not changing my mind at all,” he said Friday.

There also is a 3.6-mill renewal on the ballot that would generate $1.369 million for the same time period.

The additional cost to a Poland district homeowner of a $100,000 house would be $150 a year.

Canfield’s emergency levy is slated at 6.8 mills, which would generate $3.8 million annually for five years. A 1.6-mill renewal would generate $890,000 a year for five years. The cost to a Canfield district homeowner of a $100,000 house would be $208 a year.

The 6.8-mill levy previously failed in November.

Both districts have since announced numerous cuts.

In Poland, that includes a reduction in busing and staff. Sixteen tutors and eight educators will be slashed and 25 bus drivers will see reduced hours and lose hospital benefits.

Contractually, the district and union recently agreed to new two-year wage and scale-frozen deal with all employees, including administrators not currently under contract.

Canfield will drop 14 teachers and 11 classified staff members and will discontinue high school busing; the staff cuts are expected save $1.2 million annually, the district said.

Canfield is now facing a deficit of $1.5 million in 2013 and $5.9 million in 2014 if the levy does not pass, Treasurer Pattie Kesner said.

Poland and Canfield both spend approximately $8,300 per student, slightly below the county average of $8,729, according to statistical information from fiscal year 2009.

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