Superintendent Bob Alsept made a pitch Wednesday evening for passage of a 7.2-mill, five-year emergency operating levy, asking residents to “invest in our schools.” The levy, which will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, would raise $3 million annually for the New Philadelphia City Schools District. Its passage would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $252 annually in property taxes, or $21 a month.
Superintendent Bob Alsept made a pitch Wednesday evening for passage of a 7.2-mill, five-year emergency operating levy, asking residents to “invest in our schools.”
The levy, which will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, would raise $3 million annually for the New Philadelphia City Schools District. Its passage would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $252 annually in property taxes, or $21 a month.
Without additional funding, New Philadelphia is facing a predicted $6.5 million operating deficit by 2018.
At an informational meeting at the district’s Front Avenue administrative building, the superintendent said the money would allow the district to maintain all of the programs it currently offers.
“Every single thing we have is important to having well-rounded students,” Alsept said. “Everything we have is important to somebody. Everything we take away hurts us.”
He noted that New Philadelphia received an “A” rating from the state in 2013, and the high school was named one of the best in the nation by Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report magazines.
“When you look at what we spend on pupils compared to other districts, we get a great bang for our buck,” he said.
Alsept acknowledged it is difficult to ask the voters for more money.
“We all wish we weren’t in this position, but through a lot of factors we are,” he said.
District Treasurer Steve Sherer said the projected deficit is the result of cuts in state funding. Over the past two years, the district has lost $1.7 million in revenue from the state. Without the cuts, New Philadelphia could have gone until 2016 or 2017 before it would have needed extra money, he said.
The district now has a $5.1 million carryover balance, which Alsept described as the district’s “emergency account.” Without the new levy dollars, the district would spend all of that carryover amount and incur deficit spending of $6.5 million in 2018, for a total change of $11.6 million.
Passage of the levy would instead give the district a $6.9 million carryover into 2018, Sherer said. That amount is about enough to operate New Philadelphia Schools for three months.
“You don’t know what may happen,” Sherer said in explaining the need for a carryover.
He added that all these figures are based on the assumption that Ohio will not reduce school funding even further in the future.
If the levy passes, the district would then have enough money to operate until 2021 or 2022 before it would have to go to the voters again.
Alsept described the school system as a “service industry.” Eighty-five percent of its budget goes to salaries.
But the district has worked to reduce costs in that area by hiring lower-paid employees to replace those who retire, he said. New Philadelphia has been able to reduce the amount it pays for salaries in the past four years by a total of $1.4 million, including $725,000 in the 2013-2014 school year.
The $3 million the levy would generate would pay the salaries of 60 staff members. “That’s our middle school,” Alsept said of the amount.
Mayor Mike Taylor, who attended the meeting, spoke in favor of the levy.
“I support New Philadelphia Schools,” Taylor told the audience. He added that when businesses or families consider moving to a community, they want to know about its schools.
“We have to keep our school system strong,” said the mayor, who plans on putting a sign in his yard to support the tax issue.
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