District moves to place 2015 operating levy on May ballot

[Editor’s note: The Heights Observer received the following news release from the CH-UH City School District on Jan. 14, describing the district’s plans to place an operating levy on the May ballot.]

The CH-UH Board of Education (BOE) approved the first reading of the proposed 5.9 mills May 2015 operating levy language at its Jan. 6 regular meeting. A second public reading will take place at the board’s Jan. 20 work session at the Delisle Options Center at 6 p.m. The Lay Finance Committee (LFC) Chair Jane Geneva will also be at this meeting to answer any additional questions about the LFC report the board members may have.

The public readings are the first step in the process of placing an operating levy on the May ballot. The need for a new operating levy became apparent after the board reviewed the citizen-led LFC report at its December meeting. The report indicates the district faces a clear need for increased operating support by the end of 2015 in order to avoid cuts to educational programming. 

“We’ve carefully reviewed the financial projections for the CH-UH School District,” stated Geneva. “We believe that an operating levy of 6.1 mills is needed to sufficiently cover the costs to operate the district. This increased support would have to be approved by voters in 2015 in order to avoid harmful budget cuts and a double-digit levy request in 2016.”

In light of current economic conditions and the need to keep the costs as low as possible for residents, the board directed the superintendent after the December meeting to come back with reductions to get the millage amount under 6 mills. The needed operating support is completely separate from the funding residents approved for facilities improvements, none of which can be used to pay for operations. The superintendent reviewed the budget line-by-line and successfully lowered the target operating levy to 5.9 mills.    

Due to the financial need, and recognizing the possibility of a crowded November ballot, the board determined that a May 2015 special election provides the best opportunity for success. 

“This school district has made consistent academic improvements in recent years, and we must protect and build on those achievements,” said Nancy Peppler, CH-UH BOE president. “The board and administration have placed great importance on reducing costs in all areas. District staff has taken the lead by consistently making cuts in all departments without compromising classroom instruction.  But we are at the point now where any more significant cuts to personnel and services, like those that would be necessary without a levy, would hurt education. We cannot let that happen.” 

Like every school district in Ohio, the CH-UH City School District is unfortunately forced to periodically ask residents for increased operating support to pay for educational necessities such as teachers and educational programming. While the district is always finding ways to economize, cut costs and accomplish its mission with less, the funding it receives from residents is prohibited by state law from rising with inflation and the usual increases in costs that we all face. Many school districts are forced to ask for an operating levy every three years, but the CH-UH district has stretched finances and made careful cuts to make the last operating levy last for four years—a year longer than anticipated.

Angee Shaker

Angee Shaker is director of communications for Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.

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Volume 8, Issue 2, Posted 6:01 PM, 01.19.2015