Several school districts planning May levies, potential cuts

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CLEVELAND - Several Northeast Ohio school districts are planning to place new levies on the May ballot, while outlining massive cuts and layoffs if these levies fail.

This week, Boards of Education in the Nordonia Hills City School District and Field Local Schools voted to place new levies on the ballot. This comes after levies failed in November.

Monday, the Nordonia Hills City School District Board of Education unanimously voted to place a 6.98 mill operating levy on the May 7 ballot. The levy would raise about $7 million annually and cost homeowners about $244 per $100,000 in home valuation annually, the district said.

The board also approved increases in pay-to-participate fees for athletics and extracurricular activities and an increase in tuition for all-day kindergarten.

The board approved $1.6 million in cuts. The reductions would eliminate 38 jobs across the district, including nine teaching positions. The district would go to state minimum requirements for transportation, eliminating busing for high school students and for all students living within two miles of their school building.

“We have a great school district. There's a lot of opportunities for kids here, and we don't want to go backwards. We want to take steps to move forward,” district Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Karen Obratil said.

A similar levy failed by 685 votes in November. The district said if the May levy passes, busing will be maintained at current levels and other planned reductions will be reevaluated. Pay freezes will remain in effect for administrative staff.

In Portage County, the Field Local Schools Board of Education held a first vote Monday to place a 7.3 mill renewal levy and 11.75 mill operating and permanent improvement levy on the ballot in May.

If the levies fail, the board plans to eliminate 38 staff positions, including 23 teachers. The cuts include the eliminating of Physical Education, Music, Art and Computer classes in elementary schools. All school buildings will close to non-school activities at 4:30 p.m., the district said.

“It would have a very negative impact on the students and everyone in the community,” said Superintendent Dave Heflinger.

Voters rejected a November levy by a 5.5% margin. Heflinger said the community last approved a new operating levy in 1991.

“We've tried to sustain this as long as we can, but we're out of time,” he said.

Heflinger said the board will hold a second vote on the levy issues at its February 4 meeting.

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