ENGLEWOOD — Issue 19, Northmont City Schools 5.9 mill, 5-year operating levy will be decided upon by local voters on March 15.
Northmont has already made more than $5 million in budget cuts and projects that it would have to cut $4 million more in teacher positions and programs, including busing, if Issue 19 fails.
This levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 house around $17 per month.
School officials have addressed Clayton, Englewood and Union city councils about the importance of the levy and have discussed the issue at other community functions. Superintendent Dr. Sarah Zatik stressed that the funding generated by the levy is critically needed to meet the district’s day-to-day operations and to prevent immediate, significant cuts to educational programs and student services. She also pointed out that the new high school and recently constructed Kleptz Early Learning Center have nothing to do with the levy and Northmont would have to be on the ballot even with the new buildings.
“This, as you can imagine, is not our most favorite thing to do,” Zatik said. “We would rather brag about our students and talk about the great things we do. Fund raising and begging people to support us is not on the top of our list. But, it is a needed item and is something that we have to do every now and then.”
Zatik pointed out that the district has not asked for new money, other than the bond issue for the two new buildings, in six years. The bond issue was specifically for the construction of the new school facilities and cannot be used for operational expenses.
In reality, Northmont should have placed the levy on the recent November ballot but Zatik stated the district wanted to wait until the new school buildings were open so that the public could see how beautiful those facilities are and to have the opportunity to explain that the operating levy would have been needed even if those facilities were never built.
“Most districts have to go back to their voters every three to five years and here we are at six years, so this is not anything out of the ordinary,” she said.
Other factors contributing to the need for the levy is cuts in anticipated growth in state dollars. For years Northmont received about one-two percent increase in the state’s biannual budget. Northmont expected to at least continue to receive that one-two percent and were optimistic about potentially receiving a little more after the passage of House Bill 5, but two days before the budget bill was approved Governor Kasich slashed any increase.
“The main reason for that is the new funding formula the state has for schools takes into account what a district’s median household income is and ours was determined to be $56,000 per household, which was deemed high,” Zatik said. “Therefor, the state feels that the community can support Northmont City Schools so they gave us no new dollars. That was very unexpected.”
She said that cut was the second hit the district suffered. Zatik said the first issue that affected the district was property revaluations, which caused the district to lose $1.3 million based on the last two property revaluations.
Between that and the no new money at the state level Northmont was proactive and cut half a million dollars from its budget this year in anticipation of having to place an operating levy on the ballot in March.
“We figured if we cut half a million this year and another half next year it would total $1 million and we were just blown away when we that neither the House or Senate version, which gave us some growth was accepted,” Zatik noted.
The Northmont Board of Education voted to place the 5.9 mill levy on the ballot, a number that over the last 20 years has worked. Zatik said the district actually needs more funding than what the 5.9 mill levy would generate, but despite that need the board decided to approve a levy based on what they felt would pass.
“Even with the levy passing we will probably have to cut close to a million dollars from our budget. That is how desperate the situation is because we are not getting any help from the state,” Zatik said.
Over a decade ago, Northmont City Schools created a Financial Advisory Committee to create transparency to community business leaders regarding the finances of the district. The committee meets twice annually and is made up of the finance directors from the municipalities that make up the district, along with business owners and school administrators. The meetings involve looking at the previous year, the budget for the current year, and the five-year forecast.
In a meeting last week, the committee endorsed Issue 19, a 5.9 mil, 5-year operating levy that is on the March 15 ballot. The committee agreed that the district is making decisions that are in alignment with the community to make Northmont the best it can be.
Members that make up the Financial Advisory Committee include the finance directors of the cities of Clayton, Englewood and Union, local business leaders as well as Northmont City School officials.