Levy passage necessary for busing

Kimberly Dick

MANTUA – Crestwood School District is asking its voters to pass an emergency levy for the fourth time in a year. If it passes, busing will resume for students.

A 4.93 mill operating levy is on the ballot for this election. This is reduced from the 6.98 mill levy that was defeated in May.

If approved, this levy will bring $1.375 million to Crestwood schools each year for five years.

“For a house valued at $100,000, it would cost about $154 a year,” said Carol Corbett, treasurer of Crestwood School District, “which is a lot less than the $300 per sport and the parent’s cost of transporting students within the two-mile radius.”

Pay-to-participate athletics and extracurriculars and state minimum busing were enacted after the last tax request failed. Participation costs would be reduced to the previous nominal fee for winter and spring sports.

“All of the high school students and the K-through 8-grade students living within two miles of the schools now have to provide their own transportation,” she said.

Passing the levy would also allow the district to:

  • Purchase modern textbooks and instructional materials
  • Increase technology for students
  • Keep the option of all-day kindergarten

Like other school districts, Crestwood has not received increased funding from the state of Ohio this year, Corbett said.

“Sixty percent of the school district’s budget comes from the state, and we didn’t get an increase to keep up with inflation in fiscal year 2006,” she said. “We are not scheduled to get one in 2007 either. So we are again looking to our other source of income, the voters.”

But if the levy is unsuccessful again, the district will have to consider additional cuts for 2007.

“If we pass (the) November levy, we collect money in February of 2006, but if it fails, this time we couldn’t collect any money until 2007. It would put us another year behind, and there would be about a million dollars in additional cuts,” Corbett said.

Other reductions if the levy fails include:

  • Buildings closing at 4 p.m. to save on custodial services
  • Increasing class sizes to 30 students per class
  • Reducing tutoring and special education services

Potential cuts after an unsuccessful levy include $330,000 from administration, food service, transportation, classroom aides, custodial and secretarial positions and $638,000 in teacher salaries, said Superintendent Joseph Iacano.

The biggest financial need for the district is funding for the salaries, Corbett said.

“Eighty to 85 percent of the budget is salaries,” she said. “And to keep teachers in the classrooms to maintain current programs, this levy needs to pass.”

In order to help the salary deficit, 13 Crestwood administrators are freezing their wages for the 2006-2007 school year, including the superintendent and treasurer.

Although each levy has failed in the district since November 2004, Corbett said the district is still trying to figure out why the levy is failing in the community.

“We’re trying to communicate to the taxpayers to have them support our levy,” she said. “We are a no-frills district. That’s what taxpayers want, that’s what taxpayers get. We are focusing on textbooks, teachers and technology.”

Current Crestwood Board of Education members, Dave Auble and Vice President Richard Painley, chose not to run again. Two of the five candidates running for school board will need to deal with the $1.1 million dollar deficit Iacano said the district is facing.

Buckeye Pipeline employee Norm Erickson has served on Crestwood’s school board twice and now serves on the Portage County Educational Service Center board.

“Crestwood is going through a tough time, and they need someone who is focused,” he said. “I hope to make Crestwood the top notch school district it was before.”

Michael Rahach, the Portage County manager for the Ohio Department Of Transportation, is running for the school board to be involved in the community and the education of his two children.

Passing this levy is important to Rahach, and he said he’d like to be involved in the money spending process.

“From what I understand for whatever reason, the community doesn’t feel that the money has been spent efficiently and wisely,” he said. “I would like to open up communication on the finances and the operations of the school.”

Special education coordinator Martha Phillips agrees that passing the levy is important to keep the district financially stable.

“I’m running because I have lived in the district since 1976, and I care a lot about Crestwood schools,” Phillips said.

Frank Rossiter manages computer technical support. He wants to be involved with the school board because it is his civic duty.

“The main thing Crestwood board needs is better communication and rapport with the Crestwood community,” he said.

Self-employed sales and marketer David Cline, who also is running, said he believes the school district is at a crossroad and agrees that the board is not doing a good job of connecting to the community.

“I’d like to see a lot more unity in the community,” Cline said. “Right now it is very divided over school-funding issues.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kimberly Dick at [email protected].