Local schools try to pass levies

Tyler McIntosh

tudents in the James A. Garfield and Windham schools will be paying close attention to the results of ballot issues 27 and 30 on Nov. 4.

The two Portage County schools will ask voters in their districts to pass emergency tax levies. If passed, both levies would continue for the next five years from 2009 to 2013.

Windham’s levy is for 3.46 mills and will generate $200,000 for the school. Superintendent Carol Kropinak said it is extremely important that Windham’s levy be passed because otherwise her school is headed for uncertain times.

“Most of our funding, because we are a low-wealth district, comes from the federal government,” Kropinak said. “However, there’s not enough there to provide all of our funding. So our local portion is very important. Right now, our governor just had a budget cut, which will impact schools as well.

“I think Windham is one of the best-kept secrets in the county as far as quality of education, the quality of our staff and the heart and soul they put into these schools . You’re not going to be charged anything extra. We are looking to maintain a level of service without having to cut, which is probably what would happen if the levy fails.”

James A. Garfield’s levy is for 5.42 mills, or $166.99 for anyone who owns a house valued at a minimum of $100,000. Treasurer Tracy Knauer hopes that Garfield’s history of frugality will give voters confidence to believe the district will not be wasteful with their tax dollars.

“It’s very important,” Knauer said. “It’s 7 percent of the general fund. We’ve been doing a good job and are fiscally responsible. The district was rated excellent by the state. We have the lowest per-pupil expenditures seven of the last nine years.”

Both school representatives said the money would be spent on general school upkeep, ranging from fuel for buses, supplies and textbooks to salaries, maintenance and utilities.

“Over the past few years we have cut wherever we can and cut so it doesn’t affect students,” Kropinak said. “We’ve cut back administratively. I am the superintendent and the high school junior high principal. We have in our district four administrators. That’s it. We all wear as many hats as we can.

“But at some point down the road, if levies don’t pass, we are going to have to start cutting things that are related to students, which may well be a teacher.”

There are always two sides to every issue, and these emergency renewals are no different. In these belt-tightening times, many residents could see this as a chance to save some money. Kropinak said she hopes people use logic when they step inside the voting booths next month.

“Have you been in our schools?” Kropinak said. “Have you seen our kids and teachers and how diligently they work? We are looking at the Windham village itself down the road as actually growing. You don’t want to be turning down your schools because once you let them down, they don’t come back, or you struggle to get them back and you don’t want to do that.

“I’m very much hoping that it will pass because it is a renewal. The levy is going to generate $200,000. It’s not going to generate millions of dollars. My hope is that when a person looks at their tax bill, they will see that we are just maintaining and not asking for anything new and will pass it.”

On Aug. 26, the Ohio Department of Education released district report cards for each school in Ohio. Garfield, which spends a county-low $7,437 on each of its 1,591 students, was one of two schools in Portage County to receive a rating of excellent. Windham, which has a total enrollment is 792, was recognized as a school of continuous improvement.

Contact public affairs reporter Tyler McIntosh at at [email protected].