CH-UH BOE opts against placing levy on 2015 ballot; looks instead to 2016
Despite a significant need for additional operating funds to maintain current staffing and services, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District Board of Education (BOE) has decided against asking voters to approve a new operating levy in 2015.
Scott Gainer, the district’s chief financial officer, detailed recent spending cuts that have been made, and next steps to offset the lost revenue from the May 2015 levy not passing, the loss of the Tangible Personal Property tax reimbursement from the state, and EdChoice vouchers. [The Educational Choice (EdChoice) Program provides students from underperforming public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools. The EdChoice scholarship amount is currently $4,250 for grades K–8. When families opt to take advantage of this program, the district loses both the student and the state funding.]
“We eliminated 10 positions back in May. We also reduced positions in the preschool program earlier this year. Through the ongoing strategic planning process—and move of the high school to the Wiley campus—vacant positions have remained unfilled and plans are in place for remaining staff to absorb that work. We’ll do more with less,” stated Gainer.
The district is eliminating a total of 48.2 positions, saving the district $3.7 million. These include those mentioned above, as well as additional teachers, counselors, social workers, office staff and administrators.
Also included is a $180,000 proposed reduction in supplemental contracts, a 10 percent reduction in materials and supplies (saving $375,000), a reduction in professional services (IT) of $360,000, and utilities savings of $340,000 (natural gas through the Ohio Schools Council consortium). Total proposed savings are just under $5 million.
Ron Register, BOE vice president, expressed concern that, with the proposed cuts, some class sizes would increase. For example, the district would eliminate five special-education teachers. Talisa Dixon, superintendent, said special-education class sizes might increase by two or three students, but class sizes would still remain under state requirements.
"I'm not a fan of this—the cuts, the economic impact—but I would hate to go on the ballot and we lose and the city loses and we're back on the ballot in 2016," said Eric Silverman, board member. [Cleveland Heights City Council is proposing that an increase in the city's income tax be placed on the November 2015 ballot.]
“The cuts in salaried positions and non-salaried spending provide us the ability to delay placing a levy on the ballot until 2016,” stated Gainer.
Board member Eric Coble said the cuts will be felt in the schools and the community. "It's important for the community to realize this will not go unnoticed. There will be pain involved."
Angee Shaker is director of communications for Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.