About 250 Poland residents showed up last week at Poland High School for a special forum on school funding and the need for a new levy. It was a move to present the facts on where Poland schools stand and why the 5.9 mill levy is needed this November.
"We had Joe Roscoe give a presentation on school funding in Ohio," said Superintendent Don Dailey. "He is an authority on school funding and when he gave the presentation, you could have heard a pin drop. He said Poland did everything right."
Dailey said the moves that Poland's Board of Education took helped in the immediate timeline, but the district is still looking at a lot of red in the new five-year forecast that is due this month.
The previous five-year forecast put Poland in the red by $104,000 at the end of this school year, according to Dailey. An extra $600,000 in cuts has bought some time and allows the district to erase the deficit for the present school year. For the future, the 2013-14 school year shows a $2.2 million deficit, a $4.8 million deficit in the 2014-15 school year, and a $7.5 million deficit in the 2015-16 school year.
"When the levy passes, I will plug in those numbers and we should be in the black through 2016," said Poland Board of Education Treasurer Don Stanovcak. "The $5.9 mills will generate $2.2 million a year."
This November's levy vote will be the district's fourth attempt to solve the funding crisis. The first attempt was in November of 2010 when voters rejected a 3.9 mill levy. In May of 2011, the school board placed a 4.9 mill levy on and it was rejected. In May of this year an attempt was made for a 3.9 mill, which also failed. With the deficit spending eating away at the carryover funds, the board had to go to a 5.9 mill to be able to make it over the next five years.
Levy rally set for Friday
The Poland Levy Committee will host a rally in support of the levy at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5 in the parking lot at Poland Seminary High School to inform citizens about the website explaining need for the levy as well as generate support for the levy. Visit www.abulldogforever.com for information.
At last week's meeting, Dailey told those in attendance that the new levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $180 a year or $15 a month.
"We used that number because the medium home in Poland is $107,600," Dailey said.
He also mentioned that the district will lose $2 million this year from the state eliminating the tangible property tax that businesses used to pay on inventory. The state has been phasing it out and this year, Stanovcak said, it is totally gone.
For the present year, Dailey said the school district employees have played a big part in keeping the schools afloat. Seven full-time teachers were cut and physical education, art, and music specialists are gone from the grade schools. On top of that, high school busing was eliminated and four drivers were cut. The remaining bus drivers, with only two runs to middle school and the elementary schools, fell under the four hours a day mark and thus lost their health care benefits.
Also making a big impact were teacher wages. Dailey said the teachers not only took a wage freeze two years ago, but have also taken a two-year step freeze. Steps are used by all school districts to give raises for years of service. In essence, Dailey said it freezes their seniority.
"This is a real give back," Dailey said. "Those teachers can work 30 years in the district and they will never get those step increases back."
While Dailey, Stanovcak and the school board are trying to be positive about the levy passage, they are also looking at the reality of what could happen if this fourth attempt fails.
"This levy is the last opportunity to keep Poland schools as we know it today," Dailey said. "We are looking at all possibilities and if it fails, we will look at an income tax. We will consider open enrollment, suspending all extra-curriculars and eliminating all-day kindergarten. These are not threats. This is the reality of the lack of revenue."
Other areas Dailey said would be considered are the elimination of busing inside the state-required two-mile radius and possibly closing one elementary school. He said everything will be done to keep the district from falling into state receivership.
"When the state comes in, they won't be bringing any money with them," he said. "They will make decisions and our own board of education will become spectators."
He said the state's goal will be to ensure the district is in the black for the next five years, which will mean a levy for much more than 5.9 mills.
"You will not recognize the Poland School District next year if the levy fails," Dailey said, "and that will impact home values."