Poland residents grill officials about proposed levy
By Ashley Luthern
Residents peppered school officials with questions Wednesday evening during a forum about the five-year, 5.9-mill emergency operating levy on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
If approved, the levy is expected to generate $2,181,867 annually. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $180.68 annually.
Joel Roscoe of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators spent the first hour of the forum explaining school funding in Ohio and how it relates to Poland.
Poland has lost about $2.4 million in state funding since 2009, he said, and expenditures, such as diesel fuel and textbooks, keep increasing.
Poland “operates efficiently” and is “truly doing more with less,” he said.
Then the forum was opened to questions. One person asked how much of the new levy money would go to educational and building needs and how much would go to sports.
“The entire amount goes to our operating budget,” which is separate from the athletic budget, Treasurer Don Stanovcak said.
One person asked about teacher pay and benefits.
Board President Dr. Larry Dinopoulos said teachers are paying 5 percent of their health insurance costs and agreed to a wage and step freeze in their pay during the last negotiated contract, saving the district about $656,000 per year.
Interim Superintendent Don Dailey added that the average teacher’s salary in Poland is $44,269 annually, which is lower than the state average of about $51,000.
Some asked about enrollment. Dinopoulos said the board is watching the district’s numbers, which have declined from 2,498 students in 2002-03 school year to 2,178 this year.
“We haven’t lost enough enrollment to close a school,” Dinopoulos said. A feasibility study has put the district on track to close a school in five years by not replacing retiring teachers, and assuming enrollment continues to decline.
Perhaps the most common question was what happens after the levy vote. If the levy is approved, things still will not go back to the way they were before, board member Jim Lavorini said.
The district has a spending deficit of about $1.5 million, and if the levy generates about $2.2 million annually, then $1.5 million of the new levy will go to keep things as is. The remaining $700,000 of new levy money would help repeal some of the cuts, he said.
“But as expenses increase, that [$700,000] will shrink,” Lavorini said.
The board said the 5.9-mill levy should last four to five years. Voters last approved a new Poland school levy in 2003. That levy was for 6.9 mills.