November 22, 2014

Elyria
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Stakes high for North Ridgeville Schools as special vote approaches

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — If voters reject a 10-year, $3.5 million emergency operating levy Tuesday, it won’t be for lack of trying to inform voters on the schools’ part.

“No one will be able to say they didn’t know about the levy or what is at stake,” Superintendent Craig Phillips said Thursday, a day before his retirement following a 34-year career in education, most of which was spent in North Ridgeville.

The campaign for the 4.9-mill levy has been a multi-faceted effort including distribution of yard signs — “we’ve had more requests for signs than ever before” — six large billboards going up along major roads in town, a number of levy informational meetings in private homes and the mailing of more than 4,000 pieces of literature to areas that historically produce high voter turnout.

For good measure, a final pre-election mailing to every household in the city was to have arrived in mailboxes Thursday. That mailing explains details of the ballot issue, most importantly that it will generate $3.5 million annually for 10 years and will cost owners of homes valued at $150,000 an estimated $225 a year in additional taxes.

Passage of the levy will allow the school system to make improvements, including replacement of textbooks and upgrading computers.

A defeat could lead to steps such as increased class sizes and possible cuts to extracurricular activities.

The same issue was rejected by voters in May.

School officials have taken substantial steps to reduce costs, most recently with a decision to trim the district’s staff by an additional 30 teaching and non-teaching positions for the 2011-12 school year.

Twelve of the 30 jobs are teaching positions that will be eliminated through retirements and resignations, Phillips said. Another 12 teaching jobs were previously eliminated as part of a $2.2 million, two-year cost reduction plan approved earlier this year.

“We have approximately 500 employees, which means we have effectively eliminated 10 percent of our staff,” Phillips said. “That’s huge. We’re trying to be lean.”

Another 11 teaching posts that were originally slotted to be eliminated were recalled after the teachers union recently agreed to concessions, including a one-year pay freeze as part of a two-year contract approved last month. Those concessions are expected to save $400,000 a year.

A 2.7-mill levy generating $1.9 million a year for 10 years, which was passed in May 2010, was expected to forestall another tax hike request until 2012, but the loss of nearly $4.2 million in state funds, stimulus money and local property taxes over a three-year period led to the current ballot issue.

School officials say if the levy is defeated Tuesday, voters will see it again in November.

A resolution authorizing the emergency levy for the fall ballot is expected to be approved at Tuesday’s school board work session, according to Phillips.

The schools will continue to examine their finances “win or lose,” Phillips said. “We will continue to look at spending and making possible further reductions.”

Polls will be open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.