The Akron Public Schools levy request is heading for the November ballot.
School board members made the 7.9 mill request official at a special board meeting this morning. The millage amount was approved by the board at its Monday night meeting.
School treasurer Jack Pierson is taking the issue to the Summit County Board of Elections today, two weeks before the August 8th ballot deadline.
School board president Jason Haas says that the board, administration and staff play a key role in what's next - the selling of the levy.
"We are the people who probably have the greatest understanding and the greatest knowledge of our predicament right now," Haas tells AkronNewsNow.com. "And so, we are probably best suited to go be able to out and speak to individuals one on one, and in group settings, and tell them about the need for the district."
Board members authorized Pierson to request one small change in the approved ballot language - to add the phrase "taxable valuation" to the amount of 79 cents per one hundred dollars.
"Standard ballot language just talks about valuation," Haas says, "and we want it to be clear that it's taxable valuation, not fair market valuation, that will affect what a homeowner pays on this levy."
That taxable valuation is about 35 percent of the appraised property value. Board members thought the language change would more clearly represent the actual cost to voters.
In other business at the special meeting, two new principals were named.
Rebecca Green-Pallotta takes over as principal at the Akron Opportunity Center, moving up from the assistant principal's post.
And Dawn Wilson is the new principal at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts. She was an assistant principal at Hyre Middle School.
BALLOT WORDING FOR 7.9 MILL NOVEMBER BALLOT ISSUE - As approved by the Akron Public Schools Board of Education, July 25, 2012
PROPOSED TAX LEVY - AKRON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage.
An additional tax for the benefit of the Akron City School District for the purposes of current expenses at a rate not exceeding 7.9 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to 79 cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for a continuing period of time, commencing in 2012, first due in calendar year 2013.
[ ] FOR THE TAX LEVY
[ ] AGAINST THE TAX LEVY
A 7.9 mill Akron Public Schools levy is headed for the November ballot.
At Monday night's meeting, Akron school board members considered four possible levy requests: 7.8 mills, 7.9 mills, 8.5 mills and 10.85 mills, with figures provided by Akron district treasurer Jack Pierson on the amount raised, and the cost per household.
After much discussion, board members decided that a 7.9 mill levy was the best balance between the district's needs, and the public's willingness to vote for a levy request to support school finances.
"We wanted to be able to find a millage amount that we believe the community is going to support, that the community will rally behind and pass," Akron school board president Jason Haas tells AkronNewsNow.com, "that would help mitigate the overall value of the reductions that we're going to have to make."
A number of board members thought "the Walmart factor" of a 7.9 mill request - with the levy being just under 8 mills, like pricing in stores and at gas stations - will help the possibility of approval this November.
Voters narrowly rejected a 5.5 mill levy last November, and were heading for a 5.9 mill levy request in March before pulling it for reconsideration.
The 10.85 mill proposal was listed because it would bring in enough money to forestall more budget cuts through 2016. But board members agreed it was a non-starter as far as possible voter approval.
Haas says a combination of lower property values, and a year without collecting money from a new levy, mean the issue in November has to be larger.
"Part of what we had to do was to make up for that lost time," Haas tells AkronNewsNow.com, "because deficits don't...they don't wait."
Haas and other board members, and superintendent David James, warned of "drastic and severe" cuts next year if no levy is approved...likely in the same ballpark of the over $22 million in cuts the district has already made that take hold this coming school year.
"We've made all the cuts where we've plucked off the pretty feathers," Haas says. "There's not much left. We're down to the point where we're talking about peeling skin back in down to the bone. It's ugly."
A 7.9 mill levy, according to figures provided by Akron treasurer Pierson, would bring in $19,280,645, with the owner of a $74,000 home paying $181 a year, or $15.07 a month.
The district will hold a special meeting required by state law on Wednesday morning, to officially nail down the financial considerations around the levy request, and to send it to the Summit County Board of Elections for placement on the November ballot.
In other actions at Monday night's meeting, the board approved the district's participation in a federal pilot program that will fund free meals for all K-12 students for the 2012-2013 school year.
The program could be extended in future years. Ohio is one of four states that participate in the federal program...which uses federal money to reimburse Akron for the meals.
We now know what size Akron Public Schools levy could end up on the November ballot.
As 84 teachers were officially cut in the district's round of 2012 budget cuts on Monday night, board members got from district treasurer Jack Pierson a possible range of millage requests and budget cuts to keep the budget in positive numbers.
"A range of millage amounts between 7 and a half, and 8 and a half," school board president Jason Haas tells AkronNewsNow.com, "to give us an idea of what the balance would be between reductions that we have to continue to make, and also new revenue, and what that would look like in Fiscal '16."
The levy would, in any event, be larger than the 5.5 mill request narrowly defeated by voters last November...even to get the same money the levy would have raised last year, due to property evaluations, the district would have to add a half-mill.
The Akron district actually ended up with a $6.2 million positive balance out of Fiscal Year 2012.
But budget gaps in the future would mean even a levy of 8.5 mills would require a few million dollars in cuts through the 2016 fiscal year. A 7.5 mill levy would require some $10 million in cuts in that same period.
The board is expected to vote on a levy millage amount at its next meeting, and would need two special meetings by early August to put a levy on the November 2012 ballot.
The number of teachers cut was reduced to some degree by the increased number of teachers taking the district's early retirement incentive.
But as 84 teachers were dismissed Monday night, a piece of news from Columbus stuck with board vice president Lisa Mansfield.
Mansfield notes that the state socked away more money in its rainy day fund...a comparison that upset her...
"The governor's office announced this week that they've added another $235 million to the state's rainy day fund...and that aggravates me very much," Mansfield tells AkronNewsNow.com. "I think that they are pretending that it's not raining in Columbus when it's raining here in Akron."
Mansfield says that local government cuts have been extreme, including cuts to municipalities and schools.
But she says money is being kept in Columbus...including money from Akron taxpayers.
The Akron Public School board wrapped up some year end business on Thursday in a special meeting.
The routine recap of spending for the 2011-2012 school year showed appropriations of nearly $600 million - which matches what was forecast before the year's end.
The board also approved a temporary budget plan of $176 million for the first three months of the new school year, a standard procedure to keep things going...as a permanent budget is due by the end of September.
The school board will spend much of July considering what size levy it'll put on the November ballot.
"I don't want to wait to give ourselves just a couple of days of a window," School board president Jason Haas tells AkronNewsNow. "We're going to look at it in July....and by the end of July at the latest, July 31st, we're gonna have voted on something."
Akron school board president Jason Haas by MPWard
But what that "something" is, levy millage wise, is not yet known.
"It's going to be at least what it was last time," Haas says. "My guess is, it's going to be somewhat higher. But I don't know to what degree yet."
Haas says even if the board wanted to raise the same amount as the 5.5 mill levy rejected narrowly by voters last November, the millage would have to increase by as much as a half-mill...since property values have taken a hit locally.
The board had originally planned a 5.9 mill levy for the March primary ballot, but decided to wait until November.
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