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Twinsburg -- Based on feedback from public workshops this fall and a 30-question telephone survey in December, the school district has taken the first step toward placing a new 6.9-mill operations levy on the May 2 ballot.
The Board unanimously passed a resolution Jan. 4 requesting that the Summit County Fiscal Office certify the total current tax valuation of the district, and provide the amount of the revenue that would be generated by the levy.
According to school officials, the levy is estimated to bring in about $5.52 million per year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $241.50 per year.
The decision to place the levy on the spring ballot comes after the district undertook several public discussion groups and initiated a telephone survey of 30 questions to more than 400 district residents.
"We understand it's a pretty significant step, it's significant to ask the residents in our community and our parents," said Board of Education President Mark Curtis. "What gets lost is how extensive the process was for the focus groups. We wanted to make sure we gathered comprehensive data to reach a decision."
School treasurer Martin Aho said this is the first of two steps needed to place the 6.9-mill continuing operating levy on the May 2 ballot. Once the fiscal office sends the district the necessary financial information, the district will need to approve legislation to place the levy on the ballot.
District expenses totaled about $42.7 million in fiscal year 2016, while it took in $27.6 million in property tax revenue in fiscal year 2016, according to district Treasurer Martin Aho.
Without new money, school officials have said the district will be deficit spending by 2020, according to the district's 5-year forecast.
One major reason for this projection, said Superintendent Kathryn Powers, is the loss of $4.6 million from the state due to the elimination of the CAT tax. The permanent loss of this state tax "is a glaring concern," she said.
Powers said the community seems to support a new levy, with the recent telephone survey of 353 registered voters and 52 parents conducted by the TRIAD Research Group in Westlake showing between 60 and 65 percent support for the levy and around 30 percent opposition (of those polled). Through the fall discussion groups and the telephone survey, school district residents also expressed support for increases in school programming and technology purchases.
"One of the things we heard loudly and clearly is 'yes, we will support a 6.9-mill levy, we will support an additional levy, but what will we do in addition to what we offer now?'" Powers said.
Two initiatives the district is considering include expanding preschool access to prospective 4-year-old students, and increasing technological access for students in fourth grade and older, Powers said.
The preschool expansion, Powers said, would allow about 56 4-year-olds (estimated initial enrollment) in the Twinsburg School District to attend preschool classes at Wilcox Primary School. The estimated cost to the district would be $335,000, minus about $100,000 collected in tuition.
"This is intended to attract kids who may not otherwise have preschool opportunities," Powers said.
The cost would cover two teachers, two instructional assistants and a part-time specialist, in addition to classroom supplies and bussing-related costs.
Powers said that there has been a greater emphasis in extending education opportunities to younger children, since increasing access to programming presumably would save the district money down the road by decreasing the need for later educational interventions.
The second initiative, the 1:1 Initiative, would provide laptops or tablets to students in grades seven through 12 and increase access to technology for students in fourth grade and older. The three-year cost for these initiatives is estimated at $916,000, which includes $225,000 per year for devices and carts and $72,000 for staff. Staff would include a technology integration specialist and a tech staff individual.
There would also be maintenance and replacement costs, estimated at $10,000 for the first and second year, and $5,000 for every year after that.
"This implementation will be rather costly," Powers said.
Further information on the phone survey can be found on the district's web site at http://www.twinsburg.k12.oh.us.
Board member Kathy Turle-Waldron said that the school board would still welcome resident feedback.
"I think it's important to let the community know that we value their input," she said. "We welcome their feedback."