Voters face school levy in Poland for 3rd time
By Ashley Luthern
School officials are hoping the third time is the charm.
After two additional tax levies were defeated in November 2010 and May 2011, voters on March 6 will decide a 3.8-mill, five-year additional emergency operating levy to generate $1,448,561 annually.
When all factors are taken into account, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $91.88 annually, said Anthony Magnetta, deputy auditor in Mahoning County.
Magnetta said the annual cost of a 3.8-mill levy for an owner of a house valued at $100,000 is $116.38. However, the district is paying off a 0.8-mill bond levy, making the net effect a 3.0-mill levy, he added.
A 3.0-mill levy would cost $105 annually on a home valued at $100,000, and once tax rollbacks are accounted for, that amount drops to $91.88 annually, Magnetta said.
The Poland school district should have a balance of about $1.5 million in carry-over at the end of this school year and about $200,000 at the end of the 2012-13 school year, according to the district’s financial forecast.
But by 2014, the district likely will have a $2-million deficit, followed by a $4.3 million deficit in 2015 and a $6.9 million deficit in 2016, the forecast states.
The last time an additional levy was approved by voters was in 2003, and it was for 6.9 mills. That levy was supposed to last for five years and was stretched until 2010, when the district put an additional levy on the ballot, said Superintendent Robert Zorn.
The district lost more than $2 million in state funding between 2005 and 2012 and has implemented $1.4 million in cuts, Zorn said.
Personnel cuts include 24 tutor positions eliminated; 25 bus drivers cut back; 12 educator positions eliminated in fall 2011; one secretary cut from full-time to less than four hours per day; one administrative position cut back; one courier position cut and one cook’s helper position cut, Zorn said.
More information about the district’s cuts, personnel, per-pupil funding and finances are available at PolandBulldogs.com by clicking on the “Why Is a School Levy Needed?” link near the bottom of the page.
“We can’t cut our way out of the financial situation we’re in. ... We need more revenue,” said school board president Dr. Larry Dinopoulos.
He said it’s unfortunate that state lawmakers haven’t fully addressed how Ohio funds school districts, which was first found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1997.
“We certainly don’t want to raise taxes, but we don’t have a choice. No school district really does, and I’m sure we’re going to look at more cuts and all kinds of things if the levy doesn’t pass,” Dinopoulos said.
A town-hall meeting to discuss the levy is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Poland Seminary High School auditorium.
Also on the March 6 ballot for Poland schools is a 1.0-mill permanent improvement renewal levy, which was originally approved by voters in 1978. That levy generates about $370,000 annually that is designated for so-called brick-and-mortar maintenance and improvements. It costs the owner of a $100,000 home $30.63 per year.
Poland Township also is seeking a renewal levy. The township is asking for approval of a 2-mill renewal levy to maintain roads and bridges, which was first approved by voters in 1977. The levy generates about $194,000 annually and costs the owner of a $100,000-valued home $20.64 per year.