TALLMADGE — Tallmadge school officials are hoping the district’s voters will pass Issue 4, a 7.4-mill, 5-year operating levy, on the Nov. 6 ballot.
A big reason for the levy is the loss of the tangible property tax, said Superintendent Jeff Ferguson. The district lost $2.5 million from its operating budget with the phase-out of this tax, and it will take about 6 mills to make up for that loss.
"Many of the residents understand the importance of strong schools when it comes to a strong community," Ferguson said. "They want to continue to have a vibrant community which involves young families making Tallmadge their home. They also are proud of the success our graduates continue to enjoy with a Tallmadge High school diploma. Last year's graduating class had 86 percent enroll in a two- or four-year college, with another 12 percent entering the job market and 3 percent enlisted in the military.
"Should the levy fail, we will have to look at a reduction in programming for the next school year," Ferguson noted. "We hope the citizens of Tallmadge will continue to support their schools as they have always done. We are 14 miles square and every child we educate comes from within those 14 miles. We have always taken care of our youngest citizens and I remain optimistic that we will continue that commitment."
If approved by voters, the proposed levy would generate a little more than $3.1 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $259 per year.
If new money is not generated for the Tallmadge schools, the district would find itself $936,378 in the hole by fiscal year 2020, according to information provided Treasurer Jeff Hostetler.
Steve Wood, chief operating officer with the Tallmadge schools, said that the feedback they have received has mostly been positive.
"Many support the need to replace the lost revenue from the state and the importance of maintaining high quality education in Tallmadge," Wood said. "Likewise, folks are concerned about rising property taxes while they live on a fixed income. Our hope is that citizens are well informed about the levy and vote according to what they believe is best for their family and the Tallmadge community."
In fiscal year 2010, personnel services were nearly $14.3 million, according to the May 2013 five-year forecast. The May 2018 forecast, posted with the Ohio Department of Education, shows personnel services at $14.5 million in fiscal year 2017, and projected to be a little more than $15 million in fiscal year 2018.
Wood said it "would be devastating" if the levy fails.
"The district would look drastically different with cuts to staff and programming," Wood said. "This would negatively impact the quality of education our students receive. With the loss of $2.5 million in state revenue, the district would have to be on the ballot again next year. If the operating levy passes in November, the district will not be on the ballot again, even for a renewal, until 2023. If the levy passes, we will be able to maintain all programming and hire another full-time school resource officer to be stationed at the new elementary and middle school campus, increasing the safety of our students."
According to information provided by the school district, previous cost-saving measures have included closing Overdale School in 2011, and its plans to consolidate Dunbar Primary School and Munroe Elementary School into one elementary school, which is scheduled to open in the 2019-20 school year.
"In planning for the loss of the $2.5 million, the district has made an effort to reduce costs," Wood said. "We have reduced healthcare costs through larger employee contributions; we have reduced operating costs by consolidating buildings; the David Bacon School, once an idle building, is now a substantial source of revenue. Through these efforts, we have been able to keep total employee salary costs below what they were 10 years ago. The district has been able to save costs while maintaining high quality programming; however, these cost saving measures will not be able to make up for the $2.5 million loss."
He added, "As a district, we are frustrated to have to be back on the ballot. If it wasn’t for the loss of the Tangible Personal Property tax, we wouldn’t have to be. This levy is critical for the schools and our community. Having a high-quality school system keeps property values high, and we want to keep Tallmadge a community of choice for families."
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC