As the economy continues to sputter, school officials have been reluctant to ask voters for more.
Districts across the region are seeking renewals rather than additional levies, rolling out renovations instead of ambitious building projects.
Of the four local school districts with levies on the ballot this November, two are asking for renewals instead of trying for new tax dollars.
Vermilion Local Schools, which is trying for a $33 million, 37-year bond issue to fund major renovations to the high school and middle school, scrapped its initial plans to build new after parents and residents decided they needed to be more realistic.
The group of community members tasked with recommending a building plan realized that building all new facilities on one campus would cost as much as $80 million.
“It’s obviously much cheaper to rehab everything than build new,” Vermilion superintendent Phil Pempin said. “For the renovation, we’re looking at about $100 per square foot, as opposed to $230 per square foot.”
Clyde-Green Springs Schools is also asking for new money, although day-to-day operations are at stake, not facilities.
The district is already funding renovations with a 1 percent income tax but expects to have lost about $1.35 million in revenue by the start of the 2012 school year because of changes to tax law and state cuts.
It’s the district’s third attempt to ask voters for a 4.9-mill, three-year additional levy expected to raise about $1.08 million per year — not enough to cover the expected losses, but enough to get by for now, superintendent Gregg Elchert said.
“We needed to be fair to our public and say, ‘We’re only going to ask for just enough,’” he said. “We’re trying to bridge the gap during this bad economy.”
Elchert said his school district has cut about $1.6 million over the past three years with wage freezes for both teachers and administrations and requiring staff to pick up a larger portion of their insurance costs.
The board already eliminated all high school busing, field trips and elementary music performances. If voters approve the levy, the board has already agreed to reinstate those programs.
“The question is, ‘Should the students in school today have the same opportunities, the same programs and same services as our recent graduates?’” he asked.
Two other districts are opting for renewals after hearing parents and residents say they just don’t have much to offer right now.
Norwalk voters in November will decide on a 3-mill, five-year renewal levy that can be used only for permanent improvements. That levy has helped the district maintain its buildings for decades — including the almost 100-year-old League Elementary School, officials said.
Administrators had proposed an additional emergency levy, but board members decided they might have a better chance of drumming up support for it in May.
Plymouth-Shiloh Local Schools hasn’t had new taxes since 1999, superintendent Jim Metcalf said. It’s asking to maintain the income it receives by approving a 4.6-mill renewal levy to fund operating costs, including salaries and utility expenses.
“If we don’t pass it, we would be hurting,” Metcalf said. “Pulling $325,000 out of our roughly $8 million budget ... that could be seven teachers. You would devastate the academic program at school.”
ISSUE: A 4.9-mill, three-year additional levy for emergency requirements, which means it will cover day-to-day operating costs including salaries and benefits, utilities, and bus fuel
TO RAISE: $1.08 million per year
LENGTH: Three years
COST: The owner of a $100,000 home will pay an extra $154 per year, according to the Sandusky County auditor’s office.
ISSUE: 3-mill renewal levy to fund renovation, remodeling and furnishing.
TO RAISE: About $429,000 per year.
LENGTH: Five years
COST: The owner of a $100,000 home currently pays $33.39 per year and will pay no new taxes.
ISSUE: 4.6-mill renewal levy to avoid deficit and pay operating expenses, including salaries, utilities and bus fuel.
TO RAISE: $325,000
LENGTH: Five years
COST: The owner of a $100,000 home currently pays $140.88 per year and will pay no new taxes.
ISSUE: A bond issue to fund renovations of Vermilion High School and Sailorway Middle School, as well as to construct a new elementary school addition. Collection on the bond issue averages 3.98 mills.
TO RAISE: $33 million
LENGTH: 37 years
COST: About $123 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home. Seniors qualify for the Homestead Exemption, which lowers their taxes on the issue.