Southeast school officials hope 5th time is the charm for levy

Sean Joseph

Southeast Local School District has not received new money from a levy in 11 years, and today voters will decide if an additional levy for emergency requirements will pass.

The levy would raise $1,860,000 over four years for operational expenses, said Paul Wulff, Southeast Local School District treasurer. The same 8.9-mill levy was voted down on the November ballot. If passed it would raise property taxes $258 for owners of a $100,000 house.

If not approved by voters, the district plans to put the levy back on the ballot in May, said Linda Fuline, superintendent for Southeast Local School District.

If it fails for a fifth time in May, the school board has already voted to cut $1.2 million from next year’s budget, Wulff said.

“I can’t say enough about how critical this election is to the survival of our district,” Wulff said. “This is a bare-bones levy, there are no frills in this thing. It’s important to keep our heads above water because of state legislators who obviously don’t care about public education.”

If the levy is not approved by May, bussing will be taken to the state minimum, which means providing transportation only to students in kindergarten through eighth grade who live more than two miles from their school.

Students would also have to pay 100 percent of the cost of extra-curricular activities if the levy doesn’t pass this year. It would cost $425 to play any sport and $200 to join any club, Wulff said.

This is the fifth time since 1996 the district has put a levy on the ballot. All four of the previous levies have failed, but Fuline said she is optimistic this time around.

“We felt we’ve gained momentum because people are now starting to feel the cuts,” Fuline said.

Previous budget cuts that went into effect Jan. 23 eliminated an elementary art teacher, elementary physical education teacher, high school home-economics teacher and part-time high school art teacher.

The district, made up of 2,200 students and three buildings, has been putting more effort in raising public awareness since November’s election, which Fuline said she thinks will make the difference in this election.

They have been sending out pamphlets and hosting community meetings every Monday to get their message out.

Southeast Schools are under “fiscal caution” by the Ohio Department of Education, which means if they don’t improve their deficit, the state will have to approve all financial plans and could eventually take over financial control of the district. If voters do approve the levy the caution could be lifted.

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