The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 30, 2013

Jefferson schools levy a renewal

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  Voters in the Jefferson Area Local School District will be asked to vote YES to renew a 20-year-old operating levy on May 7.

“We are counting on our voters and our community to understand it’s to maintain our current revenue; no new taxes are being proposed by Jefferson Area Local Schools,” Superintendent Douglas Hladek said. “Supporting renewal levies will not increase taxes.”

Issue 9 is a renewal of a 4.5 mill operating levy first approved by voters in 1993 and renewed every five years since its inception. It brings in about $595,477 a year in tax revenue, he said.

As levies age, the dollars collected remain the same as when first approved, making it harder for districts to keep up with inflation.

Even so, the school board decided not to ask for any new money, but because voters approved this levy in 1993, “we hope they will graciously support it again,” Hladek said. “It means no new taxes.”

If the levy passes, it will cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 in the Jefferson school district about $70 a year, school officials said.

Phil Pawlowski, chairman of the Falcon Pride Committee, encourages residents to get out and vote May 7.

“Times have been tough over the past few years, but it’s been tough for the school district, too,” he said. “This renewal levy just continues the money we already have — it’s not new money.”

This renewal levy failed by 300 votes in November.

The board made $1.5 million in cuts in services, personnel and programs for this school year and anticipates an additional $1 million in cuts for the 2013-2014 school year.

“It has made an impact on the children’s opportunities,” Hladek said.

School board member, Pat Inman, agreed.

“Virtually every department of school life has been affected,” she said. “The cuts affect especially the children in the classroom size and academic offerings thus impacting their whole school education. Jefferson needs this renewal levy.”

Thirty-nine positions were eliminated as part of the 2012 budget cuts. Teacher reductions have resulted in class sizes of 30 or more students in the elementary school and 35 or more at the junior/senior high schools.

Hladek said inflation and state and federal budget cuts also have hit the district hard, especially in the areas of gasoline for the school buses and food and drinks for the cafeterias.