By Jordan Cohen
Despite the lopsided rejection of two additional school levies last Tuesday, voters could see one or more millage issues on the ballot later this year.
“That is one of many possibilities,” said Frank Danso, interim superintendent. “I think the margin displays that we, as a school system, have a lot more work to do to get our information out.”
A 4.65-mill operating levy and a 1-mill permanent improvement levy were defeated by margins of 69- and 70-percent of nearly 2,190 votes cast. The two levies would have generated additional annual revenues of $1.1 million and $237,000, respectively.
Danso said no levy committee pushed for passage of the two defeated issues. “We will definitely need a levy committee because at some point, something will have to be resubmitted,” the superintendent said.
Revenue from the levies would have helped overcome a projected deficit of $2.9 million by the fiscal year ending in 2017. Niles schools have been under state fiscal watch for a decade, which led the Ohio Department of Education to issue a performance audit last February that recommended significant employee cuts. One recommendation: eliminate 15 full-time positions, most of them non-teaching employees, which the state auditor said would save the district $1.3 million annually.
“We need to take a look at that study, review our current and future fiscal plans and set a direction to move in,” Danso said. “I’ll be making comments to the board about where to go next.” The board next meets May 16.
Danso indicated he did not expect to make any specific recommendations about staffing reductions at the meeting, however he did not rule out the possibility of future reductions in force. Completion of construction of two new elementary schools next year is likely to factor in the decision.
“As we prepare to go into the new buildings, we’ll have one building less, so the staffing numbers will be reviewed as per the number of students we have,” Danso said.
The superintendent has warned that the district’s purchase of basic supplies such as paper and other products has required deficit spending.” Should the deficits continue without significant additional revenue, Niles could eventually be declared in “fiscal emergency.