Southeast local schools wants 8.9 mill levy to pass

Joe Murphy

RAVENNA-The Southeast Local School District is asking voters to pass a four-year, 8.9ƒ_”mill emergency levy Tuesday.

Money from the levy, which is on its third try, would generate about $1.8 million a year for the five-school district. This would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an average of $258 per year.

An emergency levy means all the money generated from the levy would remain in the school district, said Paul Wulff, treasurer for the district. A regular operating levy would send part of the funds to the state.

The levy failed in both May and August of this year. Wulff said about 60 percent of the voters voted against it each time. But he said one more failure could mean hard times in the district.

“This is a pretty important levy,” he said. “In fact, it’s critical. It’s critical for the survival of the district.”

Wulff said if the levy doesn’t pass, the state could take control of the district as early as December. At that point, he said, “nothing is sacred.”

“The state will put the district in fiscal caution,” he added. “They will establish a commission to come in and cut things. Art, music, industrial arts – It’s all fair game to be cut.”

Wulff said other possible cuts could come in teaching positions. It would also mean the district would continue its pay-to-play program, as well as continue its fees for children enrolled in all-day kindergarten.

If the levy passes, it would be the first school operating levy since 1995. Wulff said the top priority would be new textbooks. The money would also go to new school buses and canceling the district’s $450,000 deficit for the current fiscal year. Wulff added that the fees for athletics and kindergarten would be eliminated.

If the levy fails, Wulff said it will continue to be on the ballot until it passes, but he added he is “cautiously optimistic.”

“With the way state funding is, it’s very difficult to run on 10-year-old money,” Wulff said. “It’s a situation that so many school districts are in. School districts have become more of campaign managers than educators. It’s unfortunate you have to do that.”

The district has gone to extra efforts to ensure the levy passes, Wulff said. He said the district has hosted community meetings every Monday and upgraded its Web site to give residents a better look at the levy. The district also held a spaghetti dinner Oct. 28 for those in support of the levy.

“I’ve been really impressed with the enthusiasm,” he said. “It’s impressive because it’s coming from the community, and not just the administrators.”

Contact public affairs reporter Joe Murphy at [email protected].