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Twinsburg City School District operations levy passes May 2

Issue 15 approved by 196 votes, will generate $5.65M per year for district

By ANDREW SCHUNK AND APRIL HELMS Editor and Reporter Published: May 2, 2017 10:00 PM
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TWINSBURG -- Twinsburg City School District residents have approved Issue 15, a 6.9-mill operating levy that will generate $5.65 million per year for the schools.

The May 2 ballot measure was approved 1,844 votes (52.81 percent) to 1,648 votes (47.19 percent), according to final but unofficial results from the Summit County Board of Elections. The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $241.50 per year in property taxes.

"I am most appreciative of our parents and residents who supported our students through the passage of Issue 15, the 6.9-mill operating levy," said Superintendent Kathryn Powers. "Thanks to this vote of confidence in the work of our staff members, the Twinsburg City School District will be able to continue the excellent programs and services we provide our students as we prepare them for success in school and beyond.

"Special thanks to our Blue Ribbon Schools Committee, under the leadership of co-Chairpersons Walt Hoffmann, Jennifer Wilson, Jamey DeFabio and Treasurer Brian Cook, for their tireless focus and dedication to our Tigers."

"I want to express my sincere appreciation to the Twinsburg community for conveying your desire to allow us to continue our tradition of excellence," said Board of Education President Mark Curtis. "We recognize the sacrifices you have made over the years and we remain committed to delivering high academic achievement as well as quality programs to all of our students."

School officials have said the levy was crucial in making up for a loss in state revenue -- about $9.8 million, or 23 percent of the district's $42.68 million budget, by 2020 -- due to the phase-out of the Tangible Personal Property and Commercial Activities taxes. Right now the state tax revenue makes up about $4.6 million of the district's budget.

The $5.65 million generated by the levy will be used for wages and salaries, utilities, bus transportation, insurance, instructional materials, supplies and purchased services, according to school officials.

"One of the greatest rights Americans have is to cast their vote and provide direction to their elected public servant leadership team," said Board of Education member Kathy Turle-Waldron. "It is imperative as leaders that we listen, observe and always do what we are elected to do ... and that is to represent the community. Thank you, Twinsburg, for your continued support."

Irwin Turnbull, a Twinsburg senior who lives on Lockwood Oval, said he voted against the levy, calling it "a continuous, ongoing rat race."

"That's terrible what they are doing," he said. "We are on a fixed income. This will really hurt a lot of people. Some might need to sell their homes."

Turnbull said he worked for Ford and has lived through downturns and recessions.

"We all learned to adjust," he said. "You do what you have to to get by ... Money won't make that much difference."

Passage of the levy will allow the Twinsburg School District "to provide the necessities for students and staff," Turle-Waldron said.

"Accountability in regards to expenditures are considered to be one of the largest concerns expressed to me to date," she said. "The addition of ... Ohio's online checkbook should be considered by this Board and could be a welcome addition for our constituents at this time."

Turle-Waldron also said she will push for grant opportunities when possible, such as the Straight A grant programs.

Curtis has said the district is committed to maintaining a conservative budget.

"We will also continue to work diligently in trying to impact change at the state level on funding and accountability because this is ultimately where the rubber meets the road," he said.

According to the district's 5-year financial forecast completed in 2016, without new money, the district would have been deficit-spending by 2020 by about $4 million. With passage of this new money (and assuming passage of renewals coming up in the next several years), the district projects a positive balance of $12 million by 2020, according to district Treasurer Martin Aho.

In 2012, the district made about $3.2 million in cuts, including $2.4 million through the reduction of 57 employees. The district also cut programming and classes and instituted pay-to-play fees at that time. District residents also chipped in, passing a new levy in 2012. The 2012 levy, combined with the 2012 cuts, saved and generated close to $7 million for the district.

"As the plan was developed, a series of community meetings were held to help residents, families, taxpayers, and key business leaders understand the financial challenges the school district was facing," Powers said late last month. "The guidelines established in the operational change plan [from 2012] remain in effect today."

Curtis said school districts in Ohio still face challenges.

"The current way in which we are funded has been ruled unconstitutional multiple times by the state supreme court, yet the general assembly has failed to adequately address this issue," Curtis has said. "Charter schools continue to drain desperately needed foundation dollars from our district. Rather than complain, I along with our superintendent have been very active at the state level in trying to impact changes in state funding."

Renewal levies on horizon

The district has three renewal levies --- levies bound by an expiration date --- that will hit ballots between 2017 and 2020. School officials say these levies (which are not new money) are just as crucial to staying out of fiscal emergency by 2020.

The district's revenue, about $42.9 million in 2007 and again in 2016, has changed little in 10 years, according to Aho.

A general renewal levy, which yields about $4.6 million for the district, could come before voters during the 2017-18 school year. Two emergency levy renewals, which generate $4 million and $5 million for the district, could be presented in the 2018-19 and 2020-21 school years, according to school officials.

Email: aschunk@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9424

Twitter: @twinsburgohio

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