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Liberty schools face fiscal woes, possible demise


Published: Sat, October 20, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

By danny restivo

drestivo@vindy.com

LIBERTY

If the board of education cannot make an additional $1.3 million in budget cuts, the Liberty Local School District may face dissolution.

Despite that threat, school board President Joseph Nohra Jr. said the board cannot make any additional reductions from the $14 million budget without hampering student outcomes.

Nohra believes further cuts would leave a 30-1 student-teacher ratio.

“You can’t cut your way out of this problem,” said Nohra. “I’m against taking away opportunities from children that other adjacent school districts have.”

He said open enrollment and school-choice programs have created losses in revenue — about $1.7 million annually — and future budget reductions would make the situation worse.

Board Vice President David Malone agreed.

“We are running bare bones here, and ultimately it’s the students who are going to pay,” Malone said.

Paul Marshall, chairman of the state-appointed Liberty Local financial planning and supervision commission — which ordered the board to make budget reductions by the end of the year — said if the board doesn’t make those cuts, the commission could remove the board and take over as the decision-making body.

He said if the school board can’t maintain a functioning district, dissolving the school would be a possibility.

Marshall said dissolution would require voter approval, and he hopes a collaborative effort with the board will prevent that action.

“If we can do this together, it works a lot better,” said Marshall. “I’m still hoping that we can work this process out.”

The Ohio Department of Education assigned the financial oversight commission to the district after it was placed in fiscal emergency in July 2011. The commission approves all district financial decisions.

In January, the board unanimously approved a $1.2 million deficit-reduction plan that eliminated 16.5 full-time equivalent jobs.

Nohra said the next round of cuts would target sports activities, school transportation and teachers.

Superintendent Stan Watson said the issue isn’t that the board is simply refusing to make the cuts, but that the requested reductions will leave the district with limited resources for students.

“I don’t think you can cut the amount of money on top of what has already been cut,” he said.

Along with pending cuts, the district started contract negotiations with its teachers union last month. The current contract expired in 2008, but was extended twice.

Marshall said all districts reach a point when they can no longer reduce spending. He said most districts turn to the community and ask for money.

“This district has serious problems,” Marshall said. “At some point, they have to ask voters for revenue, and the voters are going to have to make the decision.”

Nohra, who will become superintendent of the Struthers School District in December, believes getting residents’ approval for additional money is unlikely.

He said Liberty already has high property taxes. He said with the large amount needed to make the district solvent again, passing a levy doesn’t seem feasible.

“It would take a 10-mill levy to make us soluble again,” said Nohra. “We don’t feel entirely comfortably going to the voters and asking them to bail us out.”


Comments

1ohioption(47 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

This is a soluble situation. But it requires some sacrifice by several stakeholders. But it is worth the effort because as Ms. DeVito always states, "It's for the kids."

Number 1 is to get the outstanding delinquent property taxes collected. There are far too many individuals and businesses that owe taxes and have not paid them. The county treasurer could assist more in this task by making sure there are incentives to paying these delinquent taxes. That's what is done over in Stark county.

Number 2 is to get rid of the "Cadillac" insurance package that now exists ($25,000 per year per family) and get rid of the high priced insurance consultant ($3000 per month) and do what Mr. Ungaro has suggested numerous times. Get competitive quotes on a more realistic health plan for employees. Then have each member of the group covered by the plan pay a little more in copays and out-of-pocket expenses and a little more, percentage wise, of the monthly premium as other school districts in Trumbull county already are doing.

Number 3 is to collect the security bond on former school treasurer Traci Obermiyer for the extra pay that she took from the district without authorization. This was reported in state auditor Yost's report of the final audited accounts of the school district this past year. This is not millions but it does "paint" a very poor picture to the taxpayer as far as the Liberty Local School District's ability to manage their books. It is part of the reason the last school property tax levy was defeated. No confidence in the management of LLSD.

Number 4 is to seek revenue in the future with an earned income tax instead of more property tax levies. An earned income tax is not collected by the county treasurer but is instead withheld from each resident's paycheck by the state treasurer as a part of the state income tax collection. Since it is an earned income tax, it is not withheld from retirement benefits or interest or dividends which are all unearned income and have already been taxed. Therefore, the earned income tax does not affect the retired resident taxpayer who is on a "fixed income". These folks already paid their fair share when they raised their families and should not be burdened any longer with more property tax levies.

There's your plan, Mr. Nohra. I hope you "stick" around long enough to "git er dun".

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2gdog4766(1401 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

You can thank Kasich for the recent cuts in funding and Taft who on leaving office (in disgrace) began the practice of open enrollment. There is never a republican who has supported public education.

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3southsidedave(4777 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

America is raising a generation of misfits that are only concerned with their smartphones and the latest reality-based TV shows.

Moreover, the children will not be able to compete in the global workforce if education is not made a priority by politicians.

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4FYI41(5 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

To see liberty gone is sad

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5FYI41(5 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Withhold money from my husbands check??? I think not!!! We didn't get this school In a mess!!! The crooks they hired did!!! So once again pin it on the little man!!!! We already pay Youngstown tax!!!

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6gdog4766(1401 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

I want to correct myself before one of you does. Taft began the voucher system for schools not open enrollment. Any school that fell below certain standards even if temporarily were hit by this. When the people with kids at St Pats in Hubbard saw that liberty was going to be hit by this they jumped. They pulled their kids out of,St Pats, put them in Liberty, once the school fell below the standards. They became eligible for the vouchers and they put their kids back in St. Pats with the taxpayers footing their tuition to a private school. Real classy!

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7CompMan(125 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

ohioption is correct on item 4. Unlike Brookfield which has the 1% income tax on a levy for a traditional tax base that will tax on pensions and IRA/401(k) distributions. The earned income method does not tax pensions and /401(k)s.

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8Klowny1012(1 comment)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

It wouldn't be bad to pay local taxes if they went to our schools.... I currently have to pay Niles taxes because I work in Niles, I would much rather pay ours instead & help out our schools !!!!

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9uselesseater(229 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Why are Liberty Schools having these issues financially?

Why are many other districts having the same problems?

Certainly federal mandates must have something to do with it, but how much?

I heard open enrollment mentioned. Is Liberty losing tons of students to open enrollment? If so, then they shouldn't need as many teachers, supplies, etc.

We've turned primary education into a money pit.

I long for the days of one room schools and much less costly education.

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10DwightK(1236 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Can Liberty collect an income tax? It's a township, not a city.

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11Politico(27 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

The management of Liberty schools has been abysmal. I'm retired and pay $12,000 in property taxes. What do I get for it? Nothing. The roads are crap, the school managment is poor, the corrupt unions and their sheeple just want to suck more and more out of the almost dead taxpayer's corpse. I haven't voted for a levy in 6 years, and I don't intend to vote for ANY levies in the near future. EVERY government entity could take a 15-20% hit on their budget and not much will be missed. Don't pull the whining, "it's for the children" crap either. Get back to the basics of STEM and cut the meaningless touchy-feely garbage and get busy. It's been very well proven through numerous studies that computers in the classroom have NOTHING to do with learning or real achievement in tests or in life. Most kids already have computers at home anyway. Why do I have to buy them for these kids? Let their parents buy them if they are that useful. The costs for the hardware and software support and maintenance all adds up fast. I'm not anti-technology either. I've managed and operated large government computer operations around the world. It just doesn't contribute much to the end result at graduation. I never had LESS than 30 kids in a class when I was in school and will never buy the premise that smaller and smaller classroom size has a direct correlation to achievement. If that were the case, why have the SAT scores gone continously DOWN since the early 1970s with this year being the low point? Why hasn't computers in the classrooms contributed to an INCREASE in scores since they always use the story that it will greatly increase student's abilities? It's a gimmick of the unions to get more teachers on the role to the detriment of the taxpayers who ultimately have to pay the freight. This taxpayer is through paying. I want to see pain and things really rung out before my wife and I vote for any levy. If you recall, Liberty didn't have a football team for many years due to the costs. That can happen again. If folks were REALLY serious about chopping school costs, and equally funding schools and be in compliance with Ohio Supreme Court rulings, we would have ONE county school board like they do in Virginia and other states. ONE superintendent, ONE board of education, and so on. It works great, lived in Virginia for 18 years and taxes were lower. They did the same thing for County Police, Fire, and Rescue. Too much time here is devoted to little politicians and school officials protecting their little turf, myopic view of reality, and fear of actually modernizing to accept fiscal reality.

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12GoPens(397 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

^^^
Insert picture of grumpy old man here.

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13uselesseater(229 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

@Politico $12k in property taxes a year? That is insanity by the taxing authorities. I don't care if you live in Buckingham Palace. Time for you to move and leave that hassle castle for someone else before they completely drain you.

Idiots around here realize that folks don't stiffed like that in most counties in this country, right?

You live in Liberty, where the Ytown critters keep creeping and where many houses aren't even sold for $12k.

Schools continue to underperform. We are sending college graduates out with tons of debt who barely have functional literacy and most zero life skills. The great education experiment is about union protectionism and total monopoly control over captive audiences (localities). At the higher levels it is nearly as bad gobbling up all sorts of taxpayer money for Dr. Frankenstein projects.

Time to bring back 100% financing of schools by localities. No federal funding or mandates certainly and if the state sets the rules and guidelines then let them pay 100%. Every student gets vouchers then and can go to whatever school they want, be it public, private, religious or atheist.

Here's a nice graph comparing college cost to inflation:
http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/In...

Over 400% increase in college costs compared to inflation.

Then you have:
Inflation-Adjusted Cost of a K-12 Public Education and Percent Change in Achievement of 17-Year-Olds, since 1970

http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/li...

"If you graduated from high school in 1980, your entire k-12 education cost your fellow taxpayers about $75,000, in 2009 dollars. But the graduating class of 2009 had roughly twice that amount lavished on their public school careers. The extra $75,000 we're now spending has done wonders for public school employee union membership, dues revenue, and political clout. It's done a whole lotta nothin’' for student learning (see chart)."

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14gdog4766(1401 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

This is to Uselesseater; ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Federal mandates? you must be one of those H.U.A. republicans. The first thing that unindicted Lehman Bros. Executive did upon taking office was make further cuts to public schools on top of disgraced Tafts cuts. You republicans love when your ilk cut funding to things like schools, then complain when these schools put on levies to continue functioning The funding has to come from somewhere. And the idiot dems who voted for Kasich after complaining Strickland couldnt correct in two years what Bush and Taft had done to this state in their tenure are just as much to blame.There has never been a republican candidate who has supported public education, never!!!!!

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15uselesseater(229 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Yep, @gdog4766, hear lots of moaning about school costs being driven up by federal mandates, like "No Child Left Behind".

The Federal Government has no right or responsibility in education. We ought to disband the FEDERAL Department of Education. It is a massive welfare bloat department that has ballooned over the past 4 years while reality has shrunk and decayed.

I am not a Republican. I am a realist. Schools ought not cost what they do today. Education attainment has stagnated since 1970 while the cost has multiplied several times over.

Some districts like Youngstown are gobbling up$14,000-$19,000 per student.

Public education has it's place. In your community and in your state. Tell the feds to butt out already, unless you like being bankrupted via these levies and increased taxation.

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16theguins(164 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

How about a 5% pay cut across the board for all school emloyees.

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