Margaretta school board takes levy back to voters

Margaretta Schools will have an emergency levy on the ballot in August, the sixth time in two years. The school board rejected options of 9.6 and 12.5 mills on Wednesday to place a 6.9 mill levy on the ballot. The levy, which would bring in about $1.2 million per year, was approved on a 4-1 vote, with board member Roger Stark dissenting.
Susan McMillan
May 20, 2010

Margaretta Schools will have an emergency levy on the ballot in August, the sixth time in two years.

The school board rejected options of 9.6 and 12.5 mills on Wednesday to place a 6.9 mill levy on the ballot.

The levy, which would bring in about $1.2 million per year, was approved on a 4-1 vote, with board member Roger Stark dissenting.

Stark wanted to skip the August special election and put a larger levy on the ballot in November with the promise to allow another levy to expire, rather than rely on voter approval for both new money and a renewal.

November is the first time the district can seek to renew or replace a 7.75 mill emergency levy that expires next year. It's collecting at about 5 mills and bringing in about $1.2 million annually, treasurer Jude Hammond said.

Levy committee member Rick Gast told the school board that parents are already thinking about sending their children to other school districts because they're worried about extracurricular programs being cut.

"If we don't put it on in August and give the kids the opportunity, you're going to see kids leave this community," he said. "They're going to leave for education and they're going to leave for sports."

If levies fail and district leaders decide to cut extracurriculars after school starts, students who have participated in events won't be able to transfer, audience member Gary Smith said -- so they don't want to wait longer for an outcome.

Board president Elmer Lippert said no decisions have been made about how to balance the budget if further levies fail.

The district is likely to get some input from the state soon. Ohio Department of Education officials have met with administrators to review the books, and superintendent Ed Kurt said there will be a state report at the June board meeting about the district's financial standing.

The board also approved a new five-year forecast on Wednesday, as required twice a year.

Hammond said he revised revenue estimates downward based on the end of stimulus funds and projected state budget deficits in the billions. He also reduced expenses, assuming that base salaries will remain frozen.

"With negotiations coming up, I don't anticipate that we will be able to negotiate any increases," said Hammond, who cannot certify contracts for a year projected to end in deficit.

The new forecast projects a budget deficit of $297,057 next June 30, an improvement of about $160,000 from the last forecast in the fall.

The forecast assumes no new levy and a renewal of the 7.75 mill emergency levy.