Cuyahoga Falls School Board takes first step to put levy on May ballot (with video)

by ellin walsh | reporter Published:

Cuyahoga Falls -- Saying the district's infrastructure is in need of attention but there are limited funds to address this issue, the Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education took the first step toward putting a permanent improvement levy on the May 7 ballot.

School District Treasurer David Hoskin has proposed a 3-mill permanent improvement levy, five years in duration. He estimates it would raise $2.3 million annually and cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 "almost $92 per year."

Board members on Jan. 14 unanimously supported a resolution, which will be sent to the Summit County auditor, to calculate and certify the amount of revenue that would be generated by a 3-mill levy. Once the county auditor's office certifies the income amount, the school board will decide whether to place the levy on the ballot. The body faces a Feb. 6 deadline for submitting the necessary paperwork to the Summit County Board of Elections.

"It's pretty unusual that a district our size doesn't have one [a permanent improvement levy]," Leonard DeChant, the district's director of business affairs, said.

The Cuyahoga Falls City School District had a permanent improvement levy in place years ago. Hoskin could not provide information as to when it expired and if the school district sought its renewal.

Presently, the district must finance repairs and general upkeep, such as roofing and boilers, out of general operating funds. A permanent improvement levy would bolster the district's revenue stream and could be used for building maintenance, bus purchases and classroom technology, according to DeChant.

He told the Falls News-Press on Jan. 17 a permanent improvement levy would pay for a physical improvement or replacement that "has a life expectancy of five years or more." A permanent improvement levy could not be used to pay for salaries and benefits, supplies or purchase services, he added.

Superintendent Dr. Todd M. Nichols said he and his staff has been discussing the need for a permanent improvement levy in the school district since last spring.

"We have a tremendous amount of need for revenue that would be directly geared toward those projects and purchases designed to last for five years or more," according to Nichols, " For example, … safety/security, technology, transportation, the maintenance of our buildings and grounds, demolition of the Sill building, etc.

"Should the resolution to place a PI on the May ballot pass, we will provide a comprehensive five-year plan as to the use of the funds and allow our voters to make an informed decision," he said.

"With as many buildings as we have and as old as they are," DeChant said, "we're pretty desperately in need of a steady stream of money that we can use to maintain them."

Board member David Rump, a former business manager for the school district, said he fully supports the idea of instituting a permanent improvement levy; however, Rump told his colleagues "the most prevalent thing that I hear in the community is 'Don't raise our taxes. Please don't raise our taxes …'" He questioned whether the school district has "enough time to really do the sales job that we need to do before May."

Several Board colleagues observed a permanent improvement levy has been recommended before and said they believe now is the time to give the idea serious consideration. Board member Karen Schofield said she is worried the district has fallen behind technology-wise.

Another Board member, Dale Petty, said he doesn't think the district can wait to implement enhanced security-related measures.

Putting the proposal on the ballot this spring, Hoskin said, would give the school district the opportunity to complete some improvements, like security-related and technological upgrades, while youngsters are on vacation.

"Right now we're behind the ball instead of ahead of it," Hoskin reported.

DeChant shared a list of the permanent improvement needs of the district, which includes the need to replace its aging bus fleet, to make boiler replacements, upgrade technology and security and raze the former Sill Middle School. Postponing action, DeChant said, will make it more expensive in the future.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education is Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. in the Board meeting room, 431 Stow Ave.

1. Replace 15 of the school district’s 20-some buses, $1.416 million;

2. Replace the bus fueling station at the district’s bus garage. A gasoline tank is inoperable due to an internal leak, $125,000;

3. A $750,000 investment in technology/hardware is proposed each year for a total expenditure of $3.5 million. Len DeChant, the school district’s director of business affairs describes that figure as “what I was beat down to in terms of what I think we can afford, but certainly, it could be double that.”

4. Security upgrades, including the creation of interior vestibule door systems in some buildings, door intercom systems with cameras, card reader stations and remotely operated exterior doors, $400,000;

5. Boiler replacements at Preston, Price and DeWitt elementary schools, Roberts Middle School and Falls High, $980,000;

6. Parking lots/sidewalk repairs: DeChant said the improvements that are eyed would include “doing more patching than we’ve done over the last five or six years.” $900,000

7. Demolition of the former Sill Middle School, 1910 Searl St., $420,000

8. Restroom renovations in all buildings, including new partitions, sinks and toilets, $200,000;

9. Replace stoves, freezers, refrigerators and warming units for Food Services, $108,000;

10. Complete the third of a three-phased univent replacement at Bolich Middle School. Replace the univents in the original Falls High building. $390,000;

11. Replace the single pane windows in the original Falls High building with thermally-sealed windows. $350,000;

12. Replace the main water line at Bolich Middle School from the street to the boiler room, $90,000;

13. Replace the roof over Career-Tech at Falls High, $230,000;

14. Repair the smoke ventilation system, the electrical supply, lighting controls and stage equipment at the Falls High auditorium, $250,000;

15. Routine replacement of trucks, vans, turf equipment and snow removal equipment, $120,000;

16. All buildings are in need of new or updated public address systems, $300,000;

17. Replace single-pane windows, inefficient or deteriorated windows at DeWitt and Richardson elementary schools and Roberts Middle School, $490,000;

18. Classroom furniture replacement, $900,000.

Editor's note; Data provided by Leonard DeChant, the district’s director of business affairs; it was compiled by the district’s facilities committee and area 4 of the PT21 Group.

Email: ewalsh@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9419

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