Howland says it needs to pass a levy to stay out of fiscal caution


Staff report

HOWLAND

Voters will decide in the May primary election whether to approve a 10-year, 5.9-mill emergency operating levy for Howland schools.

The levy would generate $3,278,754 annually and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $17.21 per month.

District Treasurer Rhonda Amorganos said the levy will keep the school out of fiscal caution and prevent officials from having to cut more programs.

“We feel like we offer a great education to our students, and we want to maintain that,” she said.

The school is in fiscal watch. In Ohio, a school district or political entity gains that designation when the state auditor certifies an operating deficit for the current fiscal year and voters have not approved a levy that would raise enough money in the next fiscal year to eliminate the deficit.

The website www.howlandlevy.com was created to inform voters why the school needs the levy.

“We want to be very transparent with what our administration is doing,” Amorganos said.

The state eliminated the Tangible Personal Property Tax that resulted in budget cuts for the school.

“A total compounded loss of $2.9 million has occurred in the last five years as the state reimbursement decreased, [and] $1.9 million will be lost annually and will never be replaced,” according to the website. The state reimbursed communities such as Howland after they lost revenue from the tax until 2012.

A calendar with school meetings, voter registration information and a link to submit questions is also on the website.

Superintendent Kevin Spicher said the school has adjusted accordingly with the loss of funds.

“We really worked hard to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars,” he said. “We pride ourselves on providing a great education for kids, and in order to move forward, we have to recoup our losses.”

School administrators cut programs that didn’t significantly impact students so they could allocate the funds to programs such as college-credit plus, honors classes and extracurricular activities. They also cut staff positions to maintain the budget.

But if the levy doesn’t pass, those programs and more could be cut, and the school would have to designate select bus stops instead of picking up students from their homes.

“If the levy doesn’t pass, these specific consequences will occur, not because we want them to but because they will be necessary,” Spicher said.

The school hasn’t had additional operating levy money since 2003. Voters turned down school levy attempts in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

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