School District Approves Placing 5.9-Mill Operating Levy On May Ballot

The Maumee school district is seeking a 5.9-mill operating levy to shore up needed revenue for the general fund. Budget projections indicate that without the additional revenue, the district could face a $4 million deficit in three years, and an $8 million deficit in four years. Voters will be asked to approve the levy in May. MIRROR PHOTO BY MIKE McCARTHY

BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — The Maumee school district will seek voter approval of a 5.9-mill operating levy. During a special meeting on January 29, the board voted to move forward with a levy request, which will appear on the May 8 ballot. The 5.9-mill levy would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an additional $206.50 annually in taxes. If passed, the levy would generate approximately $2.44 million in additional revenue for the district and would keep the district solvent through the next four years. “From everything I hear, the economy is the best that it has been in a long while,” said board president Mike Wiley. “If that is the case, then I think we can try the 5.9-mill levy and if we can’t pass it in a good economy then we are never going to pass it.” In October, the board passed a five-year forecast that indicates the district would remain solvent until fiscal year 2020, when expenditures of $32.74 million will exceed revenue of $30.24 million, resulting in a deficit of $935,830. The board considered asking voters to approve a levy at a lower amount, but passing a 4.0-mill levy would only have kept the district solvent through fiscal year 2020 and either a 4.9-mill or a 5.5-mill would have kept it solvent through fiscal year 2021. The 5.9-mill levy is projected to keep the district solvent through 2022. “If we’re going to do it, we should focus on getting out of the red. That’s what our ultimate goal is. To me, that would be the right thing to do,” said board member Diane Balcerzak. District treasurer Paul Brotzki has long maintained that decreases in state funding are the reason for the shortfall in revenue. The district has lost $2.3 million over the last seven years due to the elimination of the commercial activity tax. It is also a capped district, meaning the state has calculated a formula that says the district should receive $7.6 million annually but only funds the district $5.4 million, he said.  The district staff began meeting with state leaders last year to discuss state funding, and a coalition was formed to address the issue, said Superintendent Dr. Todd Cramer. “At a state conference we were told that the way the funding formula is computed, they look at Maumee as a community that can afford to support the local education system and they put the burden on localtax payers to cover those expenses,” Cramer said. The district has implemented cost-control strategies and reductions in spending resulting in a $1.5 million decrease from the budget. Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, 14 staff positions were eliminated, including seven tutors, one central administrator, one Gateway in-school reassignment teacher and five classroom teachers across various grade levels. The central office administrator and three of the teachers were eliminated through attrition, meaning that they were never replaced after they retired, Brotzki said.   Through previous contract negotiations with respective unions, neither teaching nor operational staff received a pay increase this year and employees paid more for their health care costs. All administrators also agreed to a salary freeze this year, he said. According to Brotzki, 61 percent of the district’s general fund expenditures are used to pay salaries. The current budget forecast does not calculate significant changes to the pay, so the budget forecast could change when new union contracts are negotiated. The teacher contracts expire on December 31, 2018 and operational staff contracts expire on June 30, 2019. The last time voters approved a district levy was in November 2014, when a 3.9-mill dual-purpose levy was approved, which generated approximately $1.58 million with approximately $800,000 going to operations and $770,000 toward projects including air conditioning in the elementary school buildings.

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