Twinsburg City Schools to see 6.9-mill levy renewal on May primary ballot

by Conner Howard | reporter Published:

Twinsburg -- Board of Education members voted Jan. 23 to send a 6.9-mill levy renewal to the May 7 ballot, giving the $4.4 million general operating levy "continuing" status.

Originally passed in 1993 and renewed every five years since, the levy will become a continuing, or permanent, levy if renewed in May by voters. The Summit County Fiscal Office must verify the millage by Feb. 6 for the levy to appear on the spring ballot.

According to the Shirley DeCheco of the Summit County Fiscal Office, the operating levy currently costs the owner of a $150,000 home roughly $250.35 per year. However, the effective millage of the levy, which currently sits at 5.4 mills, may change by May, likely changing a district homeowner's property tax.

Prior to the vote to send the operations levy to the ballot, Twinsburg resident Dave Leskovic addressed the Board, saying he could not endorse the renewal due to the levy's new continuing status.

"I cannot support the proposed levy renewal, since it is being converted to a permanent levy," Leskovic said. "I would like to have the opportunity to vote on these levies, especially since the future of school funding at both the federal and state level is still unknown at this point."

Responding to Leskovic and others' concerns, Board member Ron Stuver emphasized the importance of the levy -- which has not been a new tax since it was first passed in 1993 -- to the district's welfare, in light of the $3.2 million in reductions made in 2012.

"The renewal of this particular levy is necessary to maintain that which we have established," Stuver said. "If this levy were to fail, everything we accomplished in the last year would be undone and would take us backwards. We are taking a long term approach."

Stuver added that he felt the 6.9-mill levy should have been originally introduced as a continuing levy.

"Questions come up about should this be continuous or not; I understand the concern," Stuver said. "In 1993, this levy was needed, it should have been put on the ballot as a continuous levy at that time and that's my opinion. We are simply making that so now."

Superintendent Kathryn Powers said that while Leskovic's concerns are welcome and understood, she said they don't they represent the majority opinion of the district.

"I always appreciate the comments provided by our community," Powers said. "The fact is, when we were out last fall talking with many of our parents and community members, that is nothing that we heard repeatedly. So perhaps those individuals aren't coming to a Board meeting to share those concerns."

In light of dwindling state funding for public schools, the Twinsburg district last year cut 58 staff positions, implemented pay-to-participate fees and made other operational changes totaling $3.2 million.

Twinsburg School District voters passed a 4.9-mill levy in November 2012 that will generate a fresh $3.8 million annually for the district, and the operational changes from last year and new money -- a $7 million gap that was filled with the two measures -- will help the district stay in the black through 2016.

Board Vice President Paul Crosby said the need for additional budget-cutting action in 2016, if any, remains to be seen.

"Once we get [to 2016], there may be the possibility of having to take further measures ... but what they are, of course, are undefined," Crosby said.

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