Poland officials hope 4th try succeeds

By Ashley Luthern



School officials hope residents say yes to a new levy on the Nov. 6 ballot, after saying no three times in the past two years.

The 5.9-mill, five-year additional emergency operating levy would generate $2,181,867 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $180.68 annually.

Treasurer Don Stanovcak said the district — which has a general-fund budget of about $19 million — will see a deficit at the end of 2013-14 school year, although it should be less than the $2.2 million projected in the May five-year forecast. A new forecast will be submitted to the state this week.

“The cuts are starting to help, but they won’t fix the long-term problem,” Stanovcak said.

The district eliminated elementary counseling and K-4 specialists who taught art, music and physical education. It got rid of high-school busing and cut health benefits for 50 percent of the district’s bus drivers. It also instituted pay-to-play and has a no-new-textbook policy.

Since 2003 when the last new levy was approved, seven teaching positions have been eliminated. In 2011-12, there were 110 elementary-, middle- and high-school teachers.

In the last five years, the district has lost $5.5 million in state revenue.

“You will not recognize the Poland schools next school year if this levy fails on Nov. 6,” said interim Superintendent Don Dailey.

If the levy fails, the school board has said it will consider eliminating all-day kindergarten, extracurricular and athletic supplemental contracts and busing within a two-mile radius of each school, which also would affect Holy Family students because the district provides busing for those students, Dailey said.

The other considerations are closing a school, implementing open enrollment and re-submitting the property-tax levy in a special election or placing a tax on earned income before voters.

“Sometimes the impact is not immediate. One of the considerations if the levy fails is elimination of all-day kindergarten. You won’t see the results of that tomorrow, but you’ll see it years down the road,” Dailey said.

He noted the academic report card released this month that named the district excellent with distinction used data from the 2011-12 school year.

“That reflects last year’s data, and many cuts were implemented last year. I’m not sure if we’ll fare as well next year,” he said.

Dailey said employees have been on a two-year wage and step freeze. The annual average teacher salary is $56,073, and the annual average administrator salary is $70,720.

At a September school-funding forum, Dailey had said the average Poland teacher’s salary was much lower.

“Being pressed for time, someone was asked to find the average teacher salary for the forum. The average was pulled off a website and it was later determined to be inaccurate,” said Dailey, who was hired by Poland in September.

Stanovcak said the two-year step freeze has saved the district about $656,000.

Poland is in a health-insurance consortium that covers districts in Mahoning County except Youngstown, Austintown and Boardman, and through the consortium, the contribution by employees will increase automatically from 5 percent to 10 percent in July 2014.

“All our employees are cognizant that things will continue to be tight even if the levy is approved,” Dailey said.

Dailey said residents seem to be more supportive of the levy now. The outside levy committee, which is funded through private donations, has about 80 members and increased visibility of the campaign, he said.

“Everyone benefits with a strong public-school system,” he said.

Also on the Nov. 6 ballot are renewal measures for Poland Village and the Western Reserve Joint Fire District, which covers Poland village and township.

The village is seeking a five-year, 2-mill renewal levy that generates $109,515 annually for the village’s general fund and costs the owner of a $100,000 home $58.71 annually.

The fire district is seeking a 1-mill, five-year renewal levy for fire services to raise $274,807 annually. That levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home $24.25 annually.

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