The Press Newspaper
The Oregon school board on Wednesday voted 4-1 against placing another 5.95-mill 10-year emergency levy on the Nov. 3 ballot.
School board member Diane Karoly was the lone vote in favor of the levy. The deadline for the board to finalize a levy in November was Nov. 20.
The board had received considerable feedback from the community since voters defeated a 5.95-mill 10-year emergency levy by a nearly three to one margin on Aug. 4.
The district faces a $1 million budget deficit by June 30, 2011.
“It has become very clear that the community wants the board to make some additional cuts before it asks them to approve another levy,” Board President Jeff Ziviski said after the meeting.
“The timing was not right for us to put a levy on the ballot,” he added. “The economy is affecting the majority of those living in the district. While the community clearly supports the schools, the taxpayers just can’t afford a tax increase at this time. The community has always been extremely supportive of the district when it has placed levies on the ballot in the past. Under the proper circumstances, the community will continue to be supportive in the future.”
The board has made over $7 million in budget cuts in three years, with $3.5 million in reductions made just recently.
“We have seen our revenues fall roughly 35 percent as a result of state law changes and have adjusted our spending accordingly,” said Ziviski. “Unfortunately, the lost revenue still exceeds our expense reductions.”
Many cuts that the community requested, and the board then made, include health care concessions from employees, salary freezes, and reduction in staff with the lay-off of 15 percent of the workforce.
“These tough economic times affect everyone,” said Ziviski. “Families are dealing with job loss and have had to adjust to wage reductions from their employers. The general feeling is that they want the board to make some additional reductions. We can do that – we have to do that.”
He added that he was encouraged by public participation in the board’s decision-making process.
“I’m hearing from taxpayers that they are unhappy with the way the state of Ohio is funding our district, and they are asking the board to lobby for change. What our residents need to know is that they can take action and make their voices heard in Columbus, too. With their votes, they have made it clear that they do not want another levy in Oregon. With their votes, telephone calls, and e-mails, they can make it clear to their state representatives that they want fundamental change in the school funding system,” said Ziviski.
Karoly said she voted in favor of putting another levy on the ballot because the district is in an “emergency situation.”
“That’s why we put the Aug. 4 levy on to begin with,” she said. “Board members and administration did not show me a better plan to help resolve the problem. I think the community wants a long term plan, not a quick fix patch. I was thinking further down the road. I don’t believe that the Aug. 4 levy campaign was rigorous enough or that truly informed voters were at the polls. I’m not sure that we heard the real voice of our community.”
Karoly said her plan consisted of three parts: A levy, further strategically planned reductions, and “creativity with what we already have.”
“According to our current financial reports, these measures would have kept us off the ballot through 2013. I am sensitive to the economic times we are experiencing, but we have a unique comprehensive school system that needs support to keep it at the level this community knows and loves. My thoughts were do it right now. Yes, there will be changes, but let’s make the district solvent for the benefit of our students, community, and staff.”