The Norwalk City Schools Board of Education has been "wide awake" during these struggling economic times, superintendent Dennis Doughty said. With that statement, Doughty was refuting a claim in a newspaper advertisement paid for by the district's levy opponents.
"We've cut at every level," Doughty said Thursday night during a community meeting about the district's levy request. "We cut anything extra that we could find."
Still, the district finds itself needing money due, in part, to reduction in government funding, the superintendent said.
Norwalk City Schools district voters will be asked to pass a 5.5-mill, five-year levy that would generate $1.85 million.
The emergency operating levy would cost a property owner of a $100,000 home about $169 per year, or $14 per month.
It would cost a senior citizen with the homestead exemption for a $100,000 home about $126 annually or $10.50 per month.
An emergency operating levy is for a specific dollar amount for a limited amount of time.
The levy cannot collect more than that amount and can't extend beyond the five years without voter approval.
Doughty said in the past decade, the student population has increased about 450 students. At the same time, revenues have decreased. In Fiscal Year 2008, the district's total adjusted income stood at 24 million. Today, it is $21.8 million, Doughty said.
The loss of revenue from fiscal year 2008 to today is in excess of $2 million per year, Doughty said.
He also pointed to unfunded mandates such a new testing system as well principal and teacher evaluations and supplies and requirements that come with educating special-needs students. For one such student, it is costing $33,000 a year to educate, Doughty said.
The "third grade guarantee" is minimally funded, Doughty said. The government will offer about 50 cents a student through a competitive grant, he added.
He commended the Norwalk Teachers Association and the local Ohio Association of Public School Employees union for agreeing to a wage freeze on base salary for three years. The unions also increased their health insurance contribution by $100 per month per employee, Doughty said.
The district has also enacted cutbacks in staffing, including administrators, teachers and support staff through attrition and a reduction in force for a total of 27 full-time employees since 2010. District officials have consolidated the elementary grade levels for more efficient operations of both personnel and educational resources. They have also reduced per pupil expenditures to $8,100. The state average is $10,500 per pupil.
Doughty said he understands there are people who cannot afford an additional tax. However, he said district officials would be remiss if they didn't explain to voters the situation with which the district finds itself.
Doughty said if the levy does not pass, a "Plan B" would have to require cuts. He, however, said it's too early to be more specific.