COVENTRY TWP. Coventry Local Schools officials are hopeful for the passage of Issue 32, a step, they say, is necessary to continue the process of getting out of fiscal emergency.
District residents, however, opposed this same levy by 283 votes in May.
The 9.91-mill renewal levy generates nearly $3 million for the district a year.
Recently named Superintendent Lisa Blough said the renewal levy is critical to daily operations and long-term financial stability. The district already has a list of cuts in place if the levy fail. Blough said the cuts would start after the Christmas break. Putting cuts in place is a requirement from the state commission that is overseeing the district while in fiscal emergency.
One of the cuts that would be put in place is all the buildings would close at 4 p.m., meaning any clubs or activates after school wouldn’t have access to the buildings. Other cuts would include cutting busing to state minimum standards, eliminating spring sports, field trips and increasing fees.
Coventry Treasurer Mathew Muccio said a failed renewal would eliminate any chances of the district getting out of fiscal emergency.
A failed levy would result in the levy returning to the ballot in May, possibly with new money added. If the levy were to fail again in May, more cuts would take place. Finally, if a levy doesn't pass by next November, officials say the district would likely have to consolidate with a neighboring district such as Barberton or Akron.
Financially, the district finished fiscal year 2015 $2 million in the red. The district borrowed $4.8 million from the state through a loan, with $2.4 million being paid back in fiscal year 2017 and the other $2.4 million set to be paid back in fiscal year 2018 to help the district improve its finances.
Another blow to the district financially is the loss of 21 resident students and 70 open enrolled students this school year. The 70 open enrolled students results in a loss of $420,000 and the resident students results in a loss of $42,000. Muccio, however, said the district expects to finish fiscal year with about a $500,000 to $1 million surplus despite the loss in revenue from students.
"We have been turning everything around," Blough said. "Managing enrollment is a big part of that."
Blough said she believes people didn’t take the renewal seriously in May and that showed in a low voter turnout. She said the district has been reaching out to parents and using social media to inform them about the significance of the levy.
"We are not relying on billboards or fancy events," Blough said. "We are having conversations and going out and talking to groups. It is about coming together and supporting the schools."
Muccio said the passage of the renewal will put the district on a positive financial path for the foreseeable future, adding that the five-year-forecast supports that.
While district officials encourage support for the issue, Coventry Schools Taxpayers Accountability Coalition (CSTAC) members have urged residents to vote no and to vote for new school board members.
The group, which has 235 likes on Facebook, has been strongly opposed to excessive open enrollment and wants to see the district follow the recommendations from the Ohio State Auditor.
Other residents are countering CSTAC, including Joel Green, who decided he has seen enough negativity on Facebook and wanted to create a positive page.
"I am just a parent that finally had enough of CSTAC attacks against the school district and parents who support their school system," Green said. "Every time the school has an issue on the ballot, CSTAC spends thousands of dollars to try and defeat it."
Green said the response of his page has been overwhelming and the use of social media has been able to reach parents in a more direct fashion.
"A few parents felt the page took a negative turn although I made strides to keep it positive," Green said. "Parents are fed up with CSTAC's bullying and have taken a stand. Due to this, we have been called an "anti-community" page, but that couldn't be further from the truth."