Board still mulling May levy numbers

“I don’t think people really wrap their head around how much this has impacted students, especially our elementary kids.”
Alissa Widman Neese
Jan 21, 2014

 

In less than two weeks, Perkins Schools must pinpoint its magic number.

Board members hosted their second of three meetings about pursuing a May tax levy Monday, but have yet to determine what sized issue they’ll place on the upcoming ballot. About 50 people attended, many of them district employees and levy supporters.    

Discussion endured for almost three hours, with board members ultimately sending 12 levy options to the Erie County auditor for millage certification. They’ll reconvene 6 p.m. Jan. 29 and likely place one of the options on the May ballot.

Final Perkins Schools levy meeting is Jan. 29
On Monday, board members sent 12 tax levy options to the Erie County auditor for certification.

The millage amounts being considered, for both five-year and 10-year timeframes: 3.5, 3.75, 3.95, 4.25, 4.5 and 7.45 mills. Board members will reconvene Jan. 29 to place one of the levies on the May ballot.

The meeting is 6 p.m. in room 805 of Perkins High School. Anyone can come and offer opinions on the matter.

The levy options being considered: 3.5, 3.75, 3.95, 4.25, 4.5 and 7.45 mills, with both a five-year and 10-year timeframe possible for each option. If approved, money generated would fund day-to-day operations for Perkins Schools and stabilize the district’s longterm budget.

The deadline to place a levy on the May ballot is Feb. 5.

The numbers 
On the heels of three straight failed levy attempts, Perkins Schools has trimmed $4 million from its annual budget since March 2013.

The detrimental reductions included eliminating about a dozen teachers, drastically increasing student pay-to-participate fees and reducing health, art, music, computer and physical education programming.

A successful May levy could restore up to $1.6 million of those cuts, superintendent Jim Gunner said.

“It’s not just as simple as determining what dollar amount,” Gunner said. “This is tied to our programming and services we provide for our children.”

Perkins Schools is projecting a surplus of almost $140,000 in the current school year, with about $650,000 total in its cash reserve. The rainy day fund will carry the district through until the 2017-18 school year, when it will be completely depleted. The district’s annual budget is about $21 million.

These figures reflect Perkins Schools operating “as is,” however, with all costly reductions still in place.

The numbers don’t necessarily portray how much the recent cuts have negatively impacted the district, board members and others said.

“I don’t think people really wrap their head around how much this has impacted students, especially our elementary kids,” parent Richard Uher said. “Whenever I come back from a meeting, my daughter’s only question is ‘Did we get our music class back yet?’ That’s what this means to them.”

Using an interactive spreadsheet, Gunner and board members outlined several restoration options with community members.

To stabilize its budget for the next five years, the smallest levy necessary would be 1.8 mills. When factoring in the restoration of academic programming, the levy’s size could range greatly, depending on the programs supported.

Ultimately, the goal is to rally voters to approve enough funding to restore some of the cuts, while still maintaining a healthy cash reserve.

The spreadsheet of proposed restorations is available below

Music, art are community priority

Completely restoring music and art programming for the district’s elementary-aged students dominated much of Monday’s discussion.

The spreadsheet presented listed three categories of programs that could be restored with a successful levy, ranked in level of priority.

Music and art programming, however, fell into the lowest priority category, which didn’t sit well with some parents and teachers in the audience.

“It would be a real disservice to our students to not bring music and art to a higher priority, and I’m saddened to see it’s so far down on the list,” teacher Kaylin Schaefer said. “Our kids need that, want that and thrive on that, to be well-rounded students.”

A few of more than a dozen possible restorations ranked higher on the list include a district technology director, middle school guidance counselor, an assistant principal at Meadowlawn Intermediate School and middle school foreign language, computer and physical education programming.

Millage move and ‘Band-Aid’ approach
A May levy attempt would be the district’s first since moving a portion of its operating funds, called “inside millage” into a separate account used for building projects in 2011.

The move quickly depleted the district’s operating fund, which is used for salaries and other day-to-day operations.

Through a series of failed levy attempts, voters refused to restore the fund. This forced board members to return a portion of the moved funds into the district’s operating account in November. As a result, board members abandoned all plans for a building project in the near future.

Now, with a new campaign approach, board members and levy supporters are hoping to secure enough funding for longterm financial stability.

They’re also looking to reunite the seemingly divided Perkins Schools community.

“Emotions often sway these votes, not facts,” past board member Elaine Waterfield said during the debate. “As hard as it is, we need to find these ‘no’ voters and find out why they’re voting no. I’ve still heard people say students aren’t being hurt by the levies failing, which isn’t the case at all.”

The upcoming, smaller levy proposal will not address any long-term facility concerns or provide much extra funding for unforeseeable emergencies.

Still, many “no” voters suggested they would support a smaller, “Band-Aid approach,” some noted Monday.

Voters haven’t approved a new Perkins Schools tax levy since 2000.

Comments

Pirate4Life

Why not move the money for the "Gunner campus fund" back to the general fund! Then we would have enough money!

How about getting rid of Gunner? He has already applied at other schools and since he "doesn't want to live in a failing district" - one that he has created - lets let him go!

Cross

It's nice they put the fact they moved money out of the inside millage at the bottom of the article, when that's the biggest problem. Move it back, then talk to us about levies.

Also, we don't want a plan for more taxes. We want a plan for spending what you currently have.

samiam

They only moved a "portion" of the inside millage back. And now they have the stadium loan to repay. Take the idea of new buildings entirely off the table and then we'll consider it.

starryeyes83

Deal with it. Price of everything has gone up... Stop playing the " But, it's for the kids" card.

Alissa Widman Neese's picture
Alissa Widman Neese

I'm uncertain if my article is unclear or if three of you four just misread what I wrote, but the board did move back a portion of the inside millage into the general fund in November — 3.2 of the 5.2 mills — and it still didn't provide Perkins Schools with enough money to show a positive budget balance after 2018.

You're right, the remaining 2 mills cannot be moved back until the board finishes paying off a hefty loan to Citizens Bank for the cost of architectural fees.

At last night's meeting, board members indicated in 2018, after the loan is paid off, they will return the remaining 2 mills back to the operating fund as well. I apologize for not including that information in my article. Regardless of the future move, however, the budget will still show a deficit that year.

There simply isn't any money left to construct a building right now, so the idea that a building is still on the table without additional funding from taxpayers — and much more than the levy that will likely be placed on the May ballot  — doesn't make much sense.

Please let me know if you need any further clarification. You can also always contact me directly.

SanduskyStrong

Thank you for the addition, Alissa.

Costs are going up for everyone - including the schools. Perkins residents want the best without having to pay for it. So, make a choice. Pay for the quality education you want, or be willing to let the value of our community decline.

goodtime1212

We voters did make a choice 3 times, they cant wrap there heads around that.

Informed

It should be "their" heads. Maybe some people don't value education the way they should.

goodtime1212

How can Gunner stand there with a straight face and say " its for our children". The school is not good enough for his children, he is actively looking to run away from the mess he and board created, to me, the more he talks, the more trust he loses. I had to work last night, did they say what they are going to do about the new school problem? is it off the table if the levy passes? If the levy passes, are they going to move that same amount out of the operating budget and back the school fund?

Alissa Widman Neese's picture
Alissa Widman Neese

This questions was addressed and no money will be moved back into the permanent improvement fund if the levy passes. Again, there simply isn't enough money to do so, as this is a "Band-Aid" approach just to get by in the general operation fund.

As I said in my article, this plan does not address school facilities at all.

njs60

Gonna keep voting NO until the school funding is changed.It's been ruled unconstitutional for years I like how our governor says he balanced the state budget without raising taxes.He didn't say he cut school funding and funding to the local governments.So the taxpayers pay in the end anyway.

donutshopguy

Alissa,

Was there any talk about finding out why a majority of voters continue to vote "no" ?

If this problem is not addressed I believe the vote will continue to be "no". The root cause or causes need to be found and resolved.

Listed below are some of the reasons I have heard over the last three levy attempts.

1. No new school needed.
2. No trust in the superintendent.
3. No trust in the school board.
4. Millage moved.
5. Teachers make too much money.
6. Property tax funding unconstitutional.
7. No money to pay more taxes.

This maybe not all the issues but it's the best off the top of my head. Everyone, please feel free to add to the list. I believe #1 and #4 are no longer valid reasons.

I believe #7 is the 800 lbs. gorilla in the room. This community is growing older and more people are on a fixed income. This problem will only grow.

My issue with voting "no" has been resolved but I'm just one vote.

Centauri

8. True property values are not used for property taxes. There are too many undervalued properties in the Perkins Local SD (OHIO). Why doesn't the attorney of the school challenge these low property valuations?

QUESTION: Would you sell your home or land for the price listed as a valuation for taxes by the Erie County (OHIO) Auditor? Why not?

Alissa Widman Neese's picture
Alissa Widman Neese

Yes, board and community members did discuss finding out why a majority are still voting "no."

Please see this quote:

“Emotions often sway these votes, not facts,” past board member Elaine Waterfield said during the debate. “As hard as it is, we need to find these ‘no’ voters and find out why they’re voting no. I’ve still heard people say students aren’t being hurt by the levies failing, which isn’t the case at all.”

One community member did indicate individuals don't trust the superintendent or school board, but I did not include him in my article because he also cited some dollar amounts and statistics that were not factual regarding open enrollment and other issues, and I didn't want to spread false information.

Finn Finn

Here are a few more reasons . . .

- too much waste, which includes unnecessary programs, personnel ("aides", etc.)

- the mentality that art and music should be of equal (to some people - GREATER) importance as math, science, history, especially when there is no money

- the mentality that sports is as important in the development of a child as academics, especially when there is no money

In response to Ms. Waterfield's comment, clearly emotions come into play on BOTH sides of the issue. When Mr. Uher publicly states, “Whenever I come back from a meeting, my daughter’s only question is ‘Did we get our music class back yet?’ what am I supposed to do with this EMOTIONAL plea? Why is his daughter's desire to have her "music class back" more important than the beleaguered taxpayer's desire to be able to pay his monthly bills. And to some folks, that's what it comes down to. I just don't understand public proclamations like this.

donutshopguy

Finn Finn,

8. Extracurriculars should not be funded the same as academics.

doppleganger

Gas prices went up. Cost of food went up. Sales taxes went up. Just to name a few. Can everyone say their wages went up? Some people are not lucky enough to have a job where they get an automatic cost of living raise every year. I truly don't believe Gunner or the board understands this - or they don't care. People don't have as much money left at the end of their paycheck as they used to. Some people lost their jobs and had to take a less paying job just to survive. How about thinking how you may be putting someone in poverty so you can have your yearly cost of living raise (automatically written in your union contract).

donutshopguy

dopp,

Your comments fall under #5 Teachers make to much money or #7 No money to pay more taxes. Maybe both.

goodtime1212

I can only speak for my kids, they are NOT being hurt by this in anyway, it is our job to raise our kids, to teach them respect, right from wrong, and what it means to live with in your means. They each play sports, but I think this will be there last year. [due to the way the programs are run] and that is 100% there decision. Truly is the old, if you don't have the name or the money, you will get treated different.

Informed

Do people not know the difference between "there" and "their" anymore? Some of you need to go back to elementary English class. No wonder Perkins can't pass a levy. Too many uneducated illiterates.