July 22, 2014

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Avon Lake school board considers levy

AVON LAKE — The loss of state money and lower values for residential and commercial property is leading school officials to ask voters for more money this spring.

The Avon Lake Board of Education will meet in a special session tonight to discuss and likely approve placing an emergency operating levy on the May ballot.

The levy likely will fall in the “$6 million range” in terms of annual revenue generated, according to Superintendent Robert Scott.

Residents rejected a five-year, 9.04-mill emergency levy by more than 700 votes in November.

The November levy would have raised $7.5 million a year and made up the approximately $7 million the district lost over the past few years from the reduction in values of residential and commercial property —approximately half of which stems from devaluation of the Genon power plant, which is slated to close in 2015.

“That will be another $1.8 million in revenue gone, and that’s just from the electric generation tax,” Scott said. “And that doesn’t necessarily reflect any change in property value once they stop generating electricity.”

A pay freeze for teachers, plus a $700,000 annual savings by joining a health care consortium of area school districts, is helping to trim a $2.8 million deficit projected for the 2014-15 school year. The board also will look at hiking pay-to-participate fees, which stand at $200 for high school students and $100 for middle school students.

“Those cover as many sports as you want to play,” Scott said.

Fees could be raised 50 percent next year, with a second increase possible the next year, Scott said.

“If we don’t pass anything in May, those costs could change drastically,” Scott said.

While five-year levies are more traditional, a 10-year levy also will be discussed.

“That would keep us off the ballot longer for a renewal,” Scott said.

Plans to ask for a smaller levy in the spring reflect a number of cuts and other cost savings, as well as a major reduction of 20 full-time equivalent posts for the 2013-14 school year, the majority of which will be teachers, Scott said.

“Without a doubt, the bulk of that number will be teaching staff,” Scott said.

All grade levels will be affected by staff cuts, but officials hope to reduce the number of positions trimmed with a one-time $25,000 retirement incentive designed to help retirees with health care costs over a three-year period.

Staff planning to take advantage of the incentive this year must inform officials by Feb. 1. Those planning to retire in the coming two years have until March 31 to decide, Scott said.

School board meeting

  • WHEN: 7 p.m. today
  • WHERE: Avon Lake High School Media Center, 175 Avon Belden Road
  • WHY: To discuss a possible levy for the May ballot

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