Cuyahoga Falls School Board moves forward with levy request

by ellin walsh | reporter Published:

Cuyahoga Falls -- Passage of a permanent improvement levy would mean classroom technology upgrades, school bus purchases and security enhancements, the city school district superintendent promises.

The Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education voted unanimously Jan. 28 to place a 3-mill permanent improvement levy on the May 7 election ballot.

If approved by voters, the levy would generate $2.219 million per year for its five-year term, according to the Summit County Fiscal officer. District Treasurer/CFO David M. Hoskin said the levy would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 $91.88 per year. Someone who is 65 or older or disabled would pay $86.63 per year, the treasurer reported.

In mid-January, the School Board adopted the first of two required resolutions to place the issue on the ballot.

In passing the second resolution last week, Board members noted a permanent improvement levy would provide a revenue stream for building maintenance, repairs and technology; school officials say the district's infrastructure is in need of attention but add there are limited funds to address the issue from general operating monies. Funds from such a levy may not be used for salaries and benefits, Hoskin said.

The district had a permanent improvement levy in place at one time, but it expired.

Board President Kellie Patterson said she didn't see another, more ideal, time to place a permanent improvement levy proposal on the ballot. "It's something that's sorely needed," she said, noting there are some windows in Cuyahoga Falls schools dating back to 1922 and some boilers from the 1950s.

"There's some, in my opinion, disasters waiting to happen," Patterson stated.

"We're behind the eight ball and it's only going to get worse," Len DeChant, the district's director of business affairs said. He said projects on the district's list of permanent improvements are only being addressed on an emergency basis at this time.

"If we don't have those PI funds," Hoskin told Board members, "then it [money for repairs and improvements] is going to come from general fund and the general fund is already … going to be in the negative in a couple years…" Hoskin said such a scenario would mandate cuts in educational offerings.

Board member David Rump said he believes the district has fallen behind, technology-wise, and he described the permanent improvement levy as a way for the district to correct that situation.

The School Board has to file the necessary paperwork with the elections board by Feb. 6 to get the measure on the May ballot.

"The timing with regard to this levy fits in perfectly with our overall vision and where we want to be seven to 10 years out," Superintendent Dr. Todd M. Nichols said.

The district's focus during the first three years of the proposed permanent improvement levy, the superintendent said, would be addressing "immediate needs," which he identified as technology, security and transportation. As much as possible, Nichols said, the strategy would be to pursue upgrades that could be removed and relocated should district voters favor the construction of new buildings in the future. Security devices, computers and school buses fall into this category, he said.

Should community members indicate they don't support construction of new buildings when funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission becomes available, Nichols said school officials would have two more years of permanent improvement levy funds available to make more extensive upgrades to existing facilities.

email: ewalsh@recordpub.com

phone number: 330-541-9419

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