SHEFFIELD — The Sheffield/Sheffield Lake school district heard the negative reactions of citizens and decided against placing a 16.6-mill operating levy on the ballot in November.
On June 16, the school board approved a resolution for a five-year, $5 million levy that would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $48.41 a month in taxes had it been approved.
Superintendent Michael Cook said he and the board realized there was no way such a levy would have passed. The highest levy ever passed in Lorain County was a 9.75-mill levy passed by Midview Schools in 2013, he said.
“We’ve listened to people and are trying to respond in a positive way,” Cook said.
At a special meeting Wednesday, board members approved a resolution opting to not go with the 16.6-mill levy and instead approved a resolution for a five-year, $2.8 million levy that once certified by the Lorain County auditor should equate to 9.5-mills.
The district’s treasurer, Joshua Hill, said a 9.5-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $27.71 a month in additional taxes.
Bill Emery, school board president, said although the five-year forecast shows that a 16.6-mill levy is what actually is needed, he believes voters will be more likely to support a smaller initial levy.
“If we all agree to take a smaller bite at the apple, but maybe just more often, the general public won’t feel as though they are being gouged by the schools,” Emery said at the board meeting.
If passed, Cook said the levy will keep the district out of a deficit through 2017.
“That’s not as good as being solvent for five years, but at least we would have money until 2017,” he said.
The district has a $19 million budget and faces a $2.5 million deficit that officials say is due in part to meeting new Ohio Department of Education mandates and dealing with state cuts in contributions to local districts.
According to information provided by the district, millage rates in the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake school district are high because home values have decreased by about $30 million over the past 10 years.
Millage rates are based on how much money a community can generate based on housing valuations, Cook said, and surrounding districts like Avon would have much lower millage rates if they were asking for the same amount of money.
The lowest millage rate the school district could ask for would be 6.6 mills, which officials said would only keep the budget out of a deficit for one year. The school district last asked for new operating money in 2005 when they passed a five-year, 5.99-mill levy.
According to officials, the district may again enter a fiscal watch period and possibly a fiscal emergency period.
Fiscal emergencies occur when schools end the year in a projected deficit, and the state is then required to come in and make decisions about the school’s future.
Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Schools last entered a fiscal watch period for six months in 2004 before entering a fiscal emergency period in 2005 which they remained in for nearly 1½ years.
The district already has made $591,000 worth of cuts.
School board member Sandra Jensen said she believes a performance audit should be conducted to determine where more cuts can be made with the least impact on students.
Ultimately, Cook said it may prove difficult convincing voters to pass any levies since voters approved in May 2011 a $31 million bond issue for the construction of a new school housing seventh through 12th grades.